Drinking age in Nebraska
The National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 was a key, pivotal point in American history regarding the drinking age. It wasn’t since Prohibition in 1919 that there was a universal, overarching drinking limitation or restriction applied to all the 50 states. The law stipulated that states had to increase their drinking age to 21 or chance losing 10% of their federal for highway construction.
All the 50 states complied. It was a tough choice for many states, many of which had much lower drinking ages. Some of them were still at around 18 or 19 years old, where they had been since the passage of the 26th Amendment. The current drinking age of 21 is higher than it is in most European countries.
Sane, sensible people are thinking of a return to 18 years old in many states, but the federal government’s overarching law remains. It’s hard to overturn it. The law was passed in response to the huge number of traffic fatalities that were attributed to underage drunk driving. By taking alcohol out of the hands of minors, it was believed that the number of drunk driving fatalities would be lessened. However, it doesn’t really seem fair to people who are ages 18 to 20, and it might not be doing much to stop the number of drunk driving fatalities out there.
The National Minimum Drinking Age Act doesn’t actually ban the consumption of alcohol by people who are under 21 years old. It does, however, ban people from purchasing it and publicly consuming it. It is legal in 41 of the 50 states to consume alcohol under certain circumstances. The wording of the law is that people can’t purchase and publicly consume it unless they’re 21 years of age or older. There are several instances, for example for religious rites, or for medical purposes, where the consumption of alcohol is legal.
In Nebraska, there is drinking on private premises that sell alcohol and on private premises that don’t sell alcohol, as long as parental consent is given. There is also drinking for religious purposes. There is drinking for medical purposes too.
The exceptions to the public purchase and possession of alcohol are not seen in all of the states though. Some of them have outright bans on alcohol consumption for persons under the age of 21. That consumption ban extends to communions and bar mitzvahs too.
The National Minimum Drinking Age Act was a game-changer, but as the case of Nebraska clearly shows, it did not do much to deter actual underage drinking. Underage drinking is different from public purchase and possession. The people of Nebraska have said emphatically and clearly that they are going to make exceptions for certain reasons. It is not uncommon for states of widely differing demographics to make exceptions to the drinking age laws. It’s hard to imagine that nine of the states would bar alcohol consumption outright for people who are under the age of 21. That is a little draconian and harsh, and it prohibits people from drinking for religious sacraments.