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Drinking age in Rhode Island

The National Minimum Drinking Age Act was the most significant piece of legislation for the public possession and purchase of alcohol since the passage of Prohibition. There were a wildly different number of approaches and ages for drinking in the various 50 states, but that all changed, at least in a connected way, with the passage of the National Minimum Drinking Age Act.

It stipulated that the national age for the public possession and purchase of alcohol would be 21, and that there would be no exceptions, and that states that didn’t comply would get 10% of their federal highway construction funds withheld. It was tough for many states to deal with that reality, but it was something that they had to deal with, and all the 50 states ended up complying. It wasn’t without its detractors though. There were a ton of people who were totally against the law, however, and it was deemed unfair by massive groups of people. That didn’t stop people from being in favor of the law though. They thought it was a great law, and they believed it would help stop some of the drunk driving fatalities going on in the country.

It’s interesting to think about the fact that each of the 50 states has had different histories as far as their legal public possession and purchase ages have gone. Each of the states has had wildly different histories as far as that aspect. Their various legislatures have all thought about the issue differently. However, it wasn’t until the National Minimum Drinking Age Act that there was a really final conclusion on the whole issue. Now, the final public purchase and possession age would be 21, and the legal drinking age could have some exceptions in the 50 states. It all was based on what the states thought was the best thing to do.

There was no known drinking age in Rhode Island prior to the passage of Prohibition. However, after Prohibition was repealed, the drinking age was raised to 21. The legal drinking age was lowered to 18 in 1972 with the passage of the 26th Amendment. It was raised to 19 in 1980. It was raised to 20 in 1981. It was raised to 21 in 1984. The only legal, allowable exception to underage alcohol consumption is for educational purposes. It seems odd, but Rhode Island has very exceptions for underage drinking. There are very few instances where underage alcohol consumption is allowed, and that seems to contradict Rhode Island’s liberal attitude toward most social issues. However, it’s the law there, and there’s not much people can do to change it. There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of energy in the direction of overturning the legal drinking age, or at least making more exceptions for the law. There are tons of states that allow it for all sorts of reasons, but Rhode Island has very few exceptions for underage drinking in general, and that doesn’t seem fair to all the people who are under 21 years of age in the state.



1 Comment

  1. Amy Martin says:

    Back in the 50s at RISD I went to many frat parties at Brown and drinking alcohol was common. Thre kids were mostly 18 to 20. Drinking age was 21 but there was never any interference.


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