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Indiana's silly liquor law

By Scott Tibbs, February 1, 2011

The state legislature earned a lot of well-deserved scorn and ridicule last summer when a law went into effect requiring retailers to "card" everyone who purchases alcohol, though the law allowed retailers a break if the clerk legitimately believed someone is over 50.

First, the idea of setting the bar this high is just stupid. There is no reason to card someone in his late 30's for an alcohol purchase. The law should be simple: Don't sell to anyone younger than the legal drinking age, and card everyone who could be younger than that age. Some people look young, so this will catch some people well into their late 20's, but is a much more reasonable standard than "carding" a grandmother.

Second, the legal drinking age itself is silly. It makes no sense that someone becomes a legal adult at 18 with all of the rights and responsibilities that come with adulthood but cannot drink alcohol for another three years. It is silly that our laws deem someone is mature enough to fight, kill and die in a war at 18 but is not responsible enough to have a beer in his own living room until he is 21. It seems that everyone instinctively knows this, so it boggles my mind why it hasn't been changed yet.

The case has been made that setting the drinking age at 21 encourages binge drinking, because underage adults cannot safely and responsibly drink under the law. By taking drinking out of a legitimate environment and making it an act of rebellion, you remove factors that could serve to limit excess. We know that 18-20 year old adults are going to drink, so let's move it out of the underground drinking culture and into the light.

Indiana should change the law and allow legal adults who are not yet 21 years of age to drink alcohol. This would come with problems, the most significant being that many high school seniors are 18 years old. If high school students can buy alcohol, it would open the door to more teen drinking and no one wants that.

So here is my solution: lower the drinking age to 19 years old. Make it legal for 18 year olds to buy alcohol only if they can produce a GED or high school diploma. Lowering the drinking age could be done with stiffened penalties for providing alcohol to a minor, perhaps including losing the right to buy alcohol for a few years.