[Guest post by DRJ]
The Amethyst Initiative was launched to rethink the drinking age. Its founder and supporters are all college chancellors and presidents:
“Launched in July 2008, the Amethyst Initiative is made up of chancellors and presidents of universities and colleges across the United States. These higher education leaders have signed their names to a public statement that the 21 year-old drinking age is not working, and, specifically, that it has created a culture of dangerous binge drinking on their campuses.
The Amethyst Initiative supports informed and unimpeded debate on the 21 year-old drinking age. Amethyst Initiative presidents and chancellors call upon elected officials to weigh all the consequences of current alcohol policies and to invite new ideas on how best to prepare young adults to make responsible decisions about alcohol use.”
Amethyst Initiative supporters include over 100 chancellors and presidents, most of whom represent private liberal arts colleges. The list includes the Presidents of Duke, Dartmouth and the Ohio State University. The Initiative’s Statement of principles clearly shows the supporters believe the drinking age should be lowered.
However, there are a range of opinions on the legal drinking age:
“Raising the drinking age to 21 was passed with the very best of intentions, but it’s had the very worst of outcomes,” said David J. Hanson, an alcohol policy expert at the State University of New York-Potsdam. “Just like during national Prohibition, the law has pushed and forced underage drinking and youthful drinking underground, where we have no control over it.”
But Mark Rosenker, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, countered: “Why would we repeal or weaken laws that save lives? It doesn’t make sense.”
The response to the Amethyst Initiative has also been mixed.
Here’s an interesting bit of trivia from MSNBC — There is no federal law that sets a minimum age for drinking. Instead, laws are set by each state:
“As it happens, there is no such thing as a “federal legal drinking age.” Many states do not expressly prohibit minors from drinking alcohol, although most of those do set certain conditions, such as its use in a religious ceremony or in the presence of a parent or other guardian.
The phrase refers instead to a patchwork of state laws adopted in the mid-1980s under pressure from Congress, which threatened in 1984 to withhold 10 percent of federal highway funds from states that did not prohibit selling alcohol to those under the age of 21. By 1988, 49 states had complied; after years of court fights, Louisiana joined the crowd in 1995.”
The MSNBC link has more information on how the laws vary among the states.