(Los Angeles Times) One of the people who was instrumental in pushing for laws to increase the legal drinking age to 21 now calls his actions “the single most regrettable decision” of his career.
Dr. Morris Chafetz, a psychiatrist who was on the presidential commission in the 1980s that recommended raising the drinking age to 21, made his remarks in an editorial that he is shopping for publication and which he released to the advocacy group Choose Responsibility. Chafetz wrote the editorial to mark the 25th anniversary of the law that was signed by President Ronald Reagan on July 17, 1984.
“Legal Age 21 has not worked,” Chafetz said in the piece. “To be sure, drunk driving fatalities are lower now than they were in 1982. But they are lower in all age groups. And they have declined just as much in Canada, where the age is 18 or 19, as they have in the United States.”
Chafetz said the law instead has resulted in “collateral, off-road damage” such as binge drinking that occurs in underage youth and crimes like date rape, assaults and property damage.
NORML doesn’t take a stand on the use of other drugs, other than to report scientific and medical facts about them. For instance…
(MSNBC) Alcohol abuse kills some 75,000 Americans each year and shortens the lives of these people by an average of 30 years, a U.S. government study suggested Thursday.
Excessive alcohol consumption is the third leading cause of preventable death in the United States after tobacco use and poor eating and exercise habits.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which published the study, estimated that 34,833 people in 2001 died from cirrhosis of the liver, cancer and other diseases linked to drinking too much beer, wine and spirits.
Another 40,933 died from car crashes and other mishaps caused by excessive alcohol use.
And to remind you that cannabis is a far safer substance for your body and for society and its greatest harm is caused by its prohibition.
I, however, will make some personal observations about drinking age. Way back in the Eighties, when my ties were skinny and my shoes were checkered, the drinking age in my home state of Idaho was 19. The Summer of ’84 was the one before senior year in high school for me, but I was only 16 and my friends were all 17 and close to 18 (I started first grade a year early because I was reading the copyright notices on the handouts for “C is for Cat” on my first days in kindergarten).
That law got signed by President Reagan and all the states were now under the blackmail threat of losing federal highway funds if they didn’t raise their drinking ages to 21. Idaho, however, is a very libertarian-minded state. Our state dug in its potato-mashing heels and kept the age at 19 all through my senior year and through my college years. I am constantly humiliated by my friends all turning 19 and me being unable to join them as they went out to the nightclubs to cruise for wild American foxes because I’m still 17 or 18.
I did drink, though. It was that Summer of ’84 when I first drank alcohol. Ghost Busters was playing at the Frontier Cinema (motto: there are plenty of good seats where ceiling plaster won’t fall on you) and me and the guys snuck in Bartles & Jaymes wine coolers in our trenchcoats. Yes, we ran around in trenchcoats in the summer. It was the Eighties and way before Columbine. I got hammered on the six I’d snuck in. I even knocked over the empty bottles as we left and everyone laughed as they rolled forever down the sloped theater floor. From that point forward, drinking was a fairly routine part of our weekend party plans.
Fast forward to January of 1989. Democratic Gov. Cecil Andrus is prepared to sign the bill passed by the Republican-dominated legislature to raise the drinking age to 21. I am 18 years old, about to turn 19 on the last day of the month and finally join my brothers in the quest for the ever-elusive wild American foxes. But in an amazing turn of events, ol’ Cec is out of the state and Republican Lt. Gov. Butch Otter is in charge when the bill hits the governor’s desk. Ol’ Butch, a strong libertarian, perhaps too a fan of wild American foxes, vetoes the bill! It was the best birthday present ever! I turned 19, the bill didn’t get back to Andrus’s desk until April, but as it raised the age to 21 it also grandfathered-in those of us who were already drinking.
And I mean “drinking”. Dropping out of college, becoming a full-time rock musician, and living in big rental houses with a bunch of dudes having contests over how much and how fast we could drink. It would be another three years of that before I discovered cannabis and my drinking tapered off.
As for the drinking age, I think that if you can join the military, you can have a beer. Or a joint. If there is an age of majority, let it be one age. Eighteen feels right socially – you’re out of high school, off to college, voting – and it seems right developmentally. Let adults be adults and let’s be consistent about who the adults are.