Drinking Age Graphic

Opinion columnist Gannon Miller argues in favor of lowering the drinking age to 18.


Full disclosure: I am 21 years old, and I have never had an MIP. A few of my friends have been handed MIPs by the Lawrence Police Department over the past two years here at the University of Kansas. That all being said, it is time (and perhaps even past time) to lower the drinking age to 18.

First, let’s set aside the old arguments of “if you are 18 and old enough to decide which politicians shape the laws in our country, then you should be able to drink” and the example of a soldier fighting for their country at 18, coming back from a tour and being legally unable to enjoy a beer with their father.

According to the Lawrence Clery Report, 487 liquor law violations occurred in 2018, 28 more than were reported in 2017. That is 487 young lives off to a rough start. These young people are experiencing independence for the first time in their young lives, and right away they are saddled with legal fees along with the fear that some employers will see it on their permanent record and question their possible employment. Not a great start to a college career, one may assume.

Out of 190 countries, 61% have a drinking age of 18 or 19 years old. The United States is one of 12 countries that have the drinking age set at 21 years old. That's the highest age limit and in only 6.3% of the world. What is most frustrating is that it used to be different. These laws are primarily still in place from the Prohibition era. In fact, this past summer in Kansas, gas stations finally got the OK to sell "strong" beer. The law holding them back was from the Prohibition era. 

The United States is living in the past — back in the days of Carrie Nation destroying pubs and bible thumping folk protesting. It is time to move forward. The modern drinking age law was signed in 1984 by former President Ronald Reagan, saying that states can either set the drinking age at 21 or face a 10% percent cut from federal highway funding.

Setting the drinking age at 18 would also calm down bar scenes. Waiting three years to drink legally makes people anxious. People are going to drink regardless. People are going to purchase fake identification to get into bars. Is that a great reason to change the drinking age? Absolutely not, but it may relieve some pressure from police, letting them focus on capturing violent criminals.

Alcohol taxes are lucrative. Money talks, and lowering the drinking age would bring more people into the liquor market. More alcohol would be sold, therefore increasing revenue. I’m no economist, but it really is a simple solution.

I am certain that setting the drinking age to 18 would settle down drinkers in bars, relieve some pressure off of police from non-violent crimes and relieve some potential guilt from college students who get busted for doing something they can do legally almost everywhere else. It is 2019. It is time to move forward. It is time for the government to accept the fact that lowering the drinking age would be better for everyone.

Gannon Miller is a senior from Columbus, Kansas, studying history and business.