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Underage drinking

November 20th, 2003

In his column, IU junior Jake Rossman complains about the police picking up students around downtown for public intoxication. He compares the police to predators.

I take issue with his comparison of police to predators and his statement that "A lion, in spite of its ferocity, hunts for survival -- not because it is higher on the food chain." I think local police should get more respect than that. They are just doing their jobs. The problem is the policy of looking for drunks, not the police officers themselves. Such rhetoric does not foster a good relationship between students and the police.

However, I think Rossman brings up an important issue here. A look at the police botter in the IDS and Herald-Times will reveal plenty of arrests for public intoxication and illegal consumption. There is a legitimate reason to pick people up for public intoxication, if a drunk is being disorderly and is a danger to others. However, arresting people for simply being intoxicated is a bit excessive. Simply being intoxicated does not make someone inherently dangerous. If someone is just walking home after a few drinks, I see no reason to spend government resources (the time of local law enforcement, space in the jail and court costs) taking them off the street. Fred Prall , Republican candidate for Mayor, raised this issue during the campaign.

This also brings up the issue of arresting "underage" IU students for "illegal consumption". Is the fact that college students drink really that much of an issue that police have to ticket people between 18 and 20 for having a few? Is this something we should be spending tax money on?

I would say no. In fact, I have a major problem with the fact that legal adults are legally prohibited from consuming alcoholic beverages if they are younger than 21. At 18, someone gains all the privileges of legal adulthood, such as voting rights, etc. More importantly, at 18 people are eligible for the draft. Does it really make sense that a 18 year old is mature enough to fight, kill and die in a war, but is not mature enough to have a beer?

Lowering the drinking age to 18 does create some problems with teenage drinking. Right now, high school students have to get someone who is 21 or older to buy beer for them. But if a good portion of high school seniors are old enough to buy alcohol, the problem of real underage drinking will get worse. Any lowering of the legal age to drink must consider and deal with this issue.

However, the basic issue is one of fairness, and keeping the legal age at 21 fails the common sense test. While I recognize the problems alcohol causes in our society, adults should be able to consume a legal substance without interference from government.