Under-age drinking laws often surprise people. In most states they permit those under 21 to drink. The places and situations differ.
People commonly think that it’s illegal for anyone in the US under 21 to drink alcohol. But that’s simply not true.
This myth about under-age drinking laws intimidates many parents. They’re afraid to teach their children how to drink in moderation. Thus the myth is counter-productive.
A government report showed when those under 21 can legally drink.1 That information is listed here.
State Under-Age Drinking Laws
|State||Consumption Permitted||Additional Information or Requirements|
|AK||Yes||In private locations and with parent. guardian, or spouse.|
|CO||Yes||In private. Consent of property owner location and parent or guardian required.|
|DE||Yes||In private residence with parent, guardian, or spouse.|
|HI||Yes||In private locations.|
|ID||No||Consumption prohibited but possession of beer and wine permitted in private residence with parent or guardian is legal.|
|IL||Yes||In private residence and with parent or guardian.|
|IA||Yes||Public drinking is illegal for anyone of any age.|
|LA||Yes||In private residence or with parent, guardian, or spouse.|
|ME||Yes||In private residence with parent or guardian.|
|MD||Yes||In private residence with parent, guardian. or spouse.|
|MN||Yes||In parent or guardian’s home with parent or guardian.|
|NM||Yes||When a parent, guardian, or spouse 21 or over serves it. May be on property other than licensed premises. And when it’s under the control of the parent, guardian, or spouse 21 or older.|
|OH||Yes||With parent, guardian, or spouse.|
|OR||Yes||In a private residence with parent or spouse.|
|SC||No||Consumption prohibited but possession permitted in home of parent or guardian.|
|SD||Yes||With parent, guardian, or spouse.|
|TX||Yes||With parent, guardian, or spouse.|
|VA||Yes||In private residence with parent, guardian, or spouse.|
|WA||Yes||With parent or guardian.|
|WY||Yes||With parent, guardian, or spouse.|
NOTE: Laws and their interpretation can change over time. Consult a lawyer for legal advice. Also many police are unaware of actual under-age drinking laws.
Part of Western Society
Alcohol has always been a part of Western society. The majority of Americans drink at least occasionally. It’s not realistic to think children will never drink as adults.
Not even religious groups that teach abstinence are able to maintain it well. Especially among their young people. This is even true among students attending church schools.
Drinking: Highly Successful Groups
Yet Italians, Jews, Greeks, French, Portuguese and many others drink with few problems. They have three keys to success. 1. Beliefs about alcohol. 2. Attitudes and actions about drinking. 3. Teaching about drinking.
In groups that successfully avoid alcohol problems:
- Alcohol itself is neutral. It is basically neither good nor bad.
- Drinking in moderation is normal. There is little or no pressure to drink. But there is no tolerance for drinking abusively.
- Alcohol education is in the home from an early age. Youth learn that when people choose to drink, they must do so responsibly. They learn from their parents’ good example and guidance.
In the vast majority of states that permit it, parents can serve their young people alcoholic beverages. This helps them learn to drink in moderation. Most people think it’s better to learn to drink in the parents’ house than in a fraternity house.
Know what your state’s under-age drinking laws are. Visit State and Local Alcohol Laws.
Resources: Under-Age Drinking Laws
1. DHHS. Report to Congress on the Prevention and Reduction of Underage Drinking. Rockville, MD: SAMSHA.