Kahn introduces bill to lower drinking age

The proposal would allow for 18-year-olds to drink in bars and restaurants

Kevin Burbach

Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, proposed a bill Monday that would allow 18-year-olds to drink in bars and restaurants, but would still deny them the ability to purchase alcohol in stores.

The bill would also allow Minnesotans 16 years and older to drink at bars and restaurants with their parent or guardian. Wisconsin has a similar law but without an age requirement.

Kahn has introduced the bill multiple times in the past without success. She said she proposed the legislation because of problems of binge drinking at the University of Minnesota, which she represents.

“I’m totally appalled by people going out on their 21st birthday and getting totally smashed,” Kahn said.

She thinks the increase in binge drinking was a result of the increase in the required age to drink.

Student reaction to the proposed legislation was mixed. Students under the age of 21 said they thought the legislation would be a good idea while some older students said it would cause problems.

Several students said they thought lowering the age to 18 would raise trouble for high school students, some of whom are 18.

Andrew Zurek said he worried that students could leave their high school campus and drink during lunch while Madeleine Laurion said it could conflict with school sports. Both said they drank before they were 21.

Mariah Major said that if the law changed, there would be a difficult transition time for a few years.

“There would be a period where everyone would be drinking so much because they were so excited about it.”

Lauren Schreffler, a kinesiology freshman, said she thought it would make more sense to make all drinking legal at age 18.

“You can go and die for your country but you cant have a beer,” Schreffler said. “It’s stupid.”

Freshman Tom Fogarty echoed Schreffler’s sentiments.

“As it is, it’s not hard for an 18-year-old to get access to alcohol,” said Fogarty. “I think it’s a step in the right direction. I don’t think they should limit it to just bars and restaurants.”

Kahn said she was unsure if the legislation would pass but said it’s important to put it forth because it “opens up discussion.”

If Minnesota lowered its drinking age, it could lose federal money. The National Minimum Drinking Act of 1984 set the minimum drinking age to 21, and states that didn’t comply risked losing 10 percent of their federal highway funds.

Kahn said because her proposal doesn’t extend to off-site liquor sales, that penalty could potentially be avoided.