Legislators torn over reducing drinking age

While signatories of the Amethyst Initiative are pushing for the reconsideration of the legal alcohol consumption age, legislators are divided over the issue.

 Launched in 2008, the Amethyst Initiative, a group of 135 university chancellors and presidents across the United States, believe that the reconsideration of the legal drinking age will decrease the amount of underage drinking on college campuses across the United States.     

“I understand what Amethyst supporters are trying to do, but I do not fully agree with the initiative because not all 18-year-olds are responsible enough to handle alcohol,” said Kenda Baxter, office administrator at Carson & Adkins Lawyers.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, each year approximately 5,000 young people under the age of 21 die as a result of underage drinking; this includes about 1,900 alcohol-related deaths from motor vehicle crashes, 1,600 as a result of homicides, 300 from suicide, as well as hundreds from other injuries such as falls, burns, and drowning.

Baxter expressed her concern about the possibility of lowering the drinking age.

“I worry most about drinking and driving,” Baxter said. “18-year-olds have curfews and if they are out at a friends’ drinking they will have to drive home under the influence of alcohol.”

While the Amethyst Initiative does not advocate a specific policy change, it has drawn backlash from groups who warn that the lowering of the drinking age will cause disastrous effects.

The chancellors said 21 years old is not effective as the legal drinking age.

The officials argue that the culture “binge-drinking” and fake identification has led them to support the initiative so that those between 18 and the legal age to drink will not have to resort to these actions.

However, some organizations strongly oppose the initiative.

“The 21-year-old minimum age for drinking is not a right or responsibility, it deals with health and safety,” said Kristine Allen of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. “Reconsideration of that law is bad public policy.”

Others like Shelynn Gillaume, 18, are questioning whether a repeal of the drinking age will actually help to combat the underage binge-drinking problem.

“If the legal drinking age were lowered underage drinking would increase greatly,” said the freshman biology student from Orlando.

Conversely, Myron Hollis, 18, a freshman physical therapy student from Belle Glade, feels differently about the issue.

“If you can smoke and vote at 18, why can’t you drink at 18?” Hollis asked.

However, Hollis said he understands the concerns about the maturity of 18-year-olds.

“If it’s an issue of responsibility, [a person’s] an adult at 18 and you’re an adult at 21…maturity is another issue,” said Hollis.

Heavy drinking is often rooted around social outings and at many schools. Bars tend to surround a college campus, which makes alcohol even more accessible.

“If a person wants to drink, they are going to drink no matter what age they are,” Hollis said.

Some people still relate have issue with the rights that are already given to 18-year-olds and how those rights do not translate to lowering the age for alcohol consumption.

“There’s a reason why you have to be 16 to drive, 18 to vote, 21 to drink and 32 to run for president and its because of maturity and responsibility,” Allen said. 

The only Historically Black Colleges and Universities supporter of the initiative is President Beverly Daniel Tatum of Spelman College.