November 28, 2000

21 or Else
   by stacy <>

In every state of the US, the drinking age is 21. That is, you must be at least 21 years old to buy or even possess alcohol. That wasn't always the law in every state, and I remember very clearly that Louisiana raised it from 18 about 8 years ago. They were reluctant to do it, but then Congress threatened to withdraw federal funds for highways and other projects, so the state gave in willingly enough.

You must also be 21 to go into casinos and most clubs and bars. These establishments are usually very stern about the policy, too, and tend to check everyone's ID, regardless of apparent age. I had a very sad experience at a casino a few years ago when I was only 20, but I was with about 20 other people who were older than me and wanted to go gambling. When we saw they carded everyone, they told me "Sorry," and went about their fun anyway. Even a girl who was younger than me got in with a fake ID. So I played skee-ball for a few hours while I waited, which is very ironic cause you have to pay a quarter for a game of skee-ball, and you get nothing in return. How is that unlike slot machines?

Anyway, I was recently in Canada, where the drinking and having fun age is either 18 or 19, depending on where you are. In Montreal, where I was, it's 18. We went to a casino there, and they didn't card anyone. I suppose if someone suspiciously 17-looking walks in, they discretely ask to see ID, but otherwise, it was very much hassle-free. I also went to a bar -- again, no ID checking. I'm sure the penalties for admitting or serving alcohol to minors is as tough there as it is here (just a fine), but they're a lot more relaxed and less uptight about it.

I'm well past the age when any of this concerns me, but I feel for younger people. Personally, I think legal drinking ages are stupid no matter what you set them at, since all they do is contribute to the notion that alcohol and gambling are somehow evils of society. But the emphasis the US puts on these "sins" is absolutely ridiculous, and worthy of lots of barrels of PFFT! The Canadian take was rather refreshing, although, to be fair, there's an old joke that in Quebec, the drinking age is only a recommendation.

Published: November 28, 2000
Editor: stacy

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