To Lower Crime At Colleges, Eliminate Underage Drinking Laws


I’ve long been an advocate for getting rid of age restrictions on alcohol consumption. By postponing the ability of younger Americans to use alcohol until age 21 – a ridiculous age given that you can vote, buy guns and be trained to kill by the US military by age 18 – we’re simply protracting the length of time our kids act like kids with alcohol. It would be better, I think, to eliminate the laws and allow these kids to be introduced to alcohol at younger ages, and under the guidance of their parents.

Current laws promote clandestine, and often dangerous, binge drinking. Eliminating the laws would bring that drinking into the sunlight, and promote healthier attitudes.

Plus, underage drinking laws are sucking up a lot of taxpayer resources. According to an analysis of Department of Education numbers about liquor law infractions at Fargo and Grand Forks-area schools finds that they constitute 89% of campus crime. That’s well above the national average of 66%, which is in and of itself a high number:

An analysis of campus crime data reported to the Department of Education shows, on average, 89 percent of incidents at these colleges and the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks from 2005-2011 were arrests, citations and disciplinary referrals for liquor law violations.

In 2011, the most recent year comparable data is available, 88 percent of incidents reported at these colleges were liquor law violations.

When I first read this report, I misunderstood the numbers. I thought they were talking about the percentage of all crimes that involved alcohol, but they’re not. The percentage is the total number of specific alcohol infractions. In fact, the higher percentage for alcohol crimes at the North Dakota/Minnesota campuses is a direct result of those campuses having a smaller number of other crimes.

“The local percentage is driven up by fewer reports of burglary, sexual assault or manslaughter as on other college campuses across the country,” reports the Fargo Forum.

Put simply, a lot of the crime at these North Dakota/Minnesota campuses would evaporate if we eliminated policies that criminalize alcohol use.

When America tried, as a nation, to outlaw alcohol use what we saw was Americans develop even more dangerous relationships with alcohol. The underground drinking promoted crimes and social ills far worse than the legal drinking had previously.

On a smaller scale, the same is true of alcohol prohibition on our campuses. Like it or not, we can’t stop these kids from drinking, so why not bring the drinking into the daylight? Allow these kids to face the issue of alcohol earlier in their lives, stop pushing these kids to cloak-and-dagger methods for obtaining and consuming alcohol, and I think we’d see a healthier attitude about alcohol in general.

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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  • meh

    Sweet picture brah
    Reminds me of some great times!

    • LenYol

      Great times!!

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  • ec99

    21 as the age of majority dates back to the Middle Ages, and then only had to do with inheritance. It never dealt with the drinking age. The Puritan strains in the US applied that to the laws of consumption. The law was lowered to 18 due to the draft and the cannon fodder effect of Vietnam. But was raised again after that.

    • meh

      The drinking age is tied to federal transportation funding. There is no “national drinking age” but if you want road funds, better pass a state law making it 21. Same for speed limits, seat belts,and open container laws.

      • Rob

        Right. There is a de facto national drinking age, in that no state is going to turn down federal transportation money over the drinking age.

  • borborygmi45

    The Libertarian Response. If it is illegal , make it legal. Just think if we eliminate law no need for Judges, Court houses. THe benefits would be endless…
    How pray tell will that promote healthier attitude. Hmm I think I will go get a ’40’ before school.

    • Rob

      The Libertarian Response. If it is illegal , make it legal.

      That’s actually not true at all. Libertarians are not anarchists. I believe in laws protecting life, liberty and property.

      You should try to actually understand the libertarian philosophy. You might find somethings you like.

      • borborygmi45

        I see as long as it doesn’t interfere with above, pursuit of happiness is no holds barred?

        • Rob

          Well, yeah, that’s what terms like “freedom” and “liberty” mean. I’m free to do as I want, as long as I’m not hurting you. Or violating your rights. Or destroying your property.

    • JoeMN

      The Liberal response to ineffective law………..
      More ineffective law.

  • illannoy

    Please. They’re old enough to do this, so that means they should be able to do that.
    And also, they’re going to do it anyway. Typical liberal justification nonsense, applying to booze, birth control, border crossing by illegals and any other enterprise desired by the hedonists.

  • fredlave

    When I was growing up in NYC in the 50s and 60s the drinking age was 18. Teenagers from the surrounding states (mostly with 21 year old drinking ages) would drive into NY State, get drunk and kill themselves driving back home. Stupid.

  • Red Wolf

    Thanks Rob, What a great observation!

    Way back when I grew up I do not remember anything about a drinking age………. It was whenever dad said you could have a beer. I have been to bars at a very young age with my folks and drinking was never a problem. Turning 21 was just another day of normal fun.
    No binge drinking or celebration of a right………… because we already had the freedom and responsibility.

    It is a shame that MAD mothers have mandated these anti freedom laws against people that are adult enough to lay their life down to fight for freedoms that they do not have. But are criminalized for doing what I am sure these HYPOCRITE MAD control freaks did when they were “UNDERAGE”

    I for one would like to see no minimum drinking age , no mandatory seat belts freedom to have open container and no speed limit. If the FEDS don’t like it extend the middle finger to them! and shove their blackmail Highway funds up their (Your Choice). FREEDOM worked before we lost it.

    • zdavid53

      You’re argument goes to far and ends up not persuading those who don’t agree with you. When most states went to 18 or 19 national statistics on highway deaths were incredible. The government almost had to do something, but education of youth about responsibility was not included. The hammer slammed down and the age went back to 21. it’s a difficult problem that was handled very wrongly.

      • Rob


      • Red Wolf

        There is risk to freedom! No doubt that I will never convince those that THINK they know whats best for me………..a lowly citizen. I know the type that make all of these anti freedom rules and laws.

        They have the same mentality that the gun grabbers have. If ONLY we just make a law, the sheep will obey because WE know what best!

        However! There is no such thing as a zero risk society. I prefer to take my place among free people with all the risk rather than be killed under government mandated control. Like drowning in a lake with a govenment mandated seat belt on

  • zdavid53

    It should be considered child abuse to send a kid to college without giving them some experience with alcohol at home. This should be part of parental responsibilities.

    • ec99

      It should be considered child abuse to drop your kid off at day care at age 5 days and then expect the school district to be the principle parent through age 18.

      • zdavid53

        Yes, and what other thing that everybody knows can be said. It should be the principal job of a parent to raise decent human beings. If you are relying on school districts to raise decent human beings, you will be hugely disappointed. The job of the school district should be to teach reading, writing, math, science, etc. The job of the parent is to teach morals, decent behavior, religious preference, etc. The reversing of these roles creates confusion. The absence of these roles creates lazy, indifferent, egotistical, unproductive brats. Part of the parents job, then, is to teach your child how to fit in with society, and this includes responsible drinking.

  • Grizzler1

    This sort of posting was a lot more fun when we had the dearly departed big ol’ 108 to extoll the virtues of prohibition and authoritarianism.
    No one can present hyperbole and hypocrisy with the zeal and obtusity of big ol’ 108.
    Rest in peace big ol’ 108, wherever you are!

  • banjo kid

    I never tried smoking pot but have drank on several occasions and I am being told drinking is OK and smoking pot is not . drinking depending on who you are changes your demeanor it slows response time it makes you wobble and teeter it makes you feel great but your actions do not show that you are in control . I am not advocating we make alcohol illegal, we already seen the result of doing that . The drug war has been every bit as much a failure as prohibition was. Many Americans are in jail today and for a long time to come because of laws that regulate morals , In light of all the states that allow pot to be used then any one in one of those states who is serving time for using pot should be released now not later but right now . Pot is just another type of prohibition and until we realize our error people will rot in jail for doing what is being done legally outside the jail.