Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays: A look at drinking laws
This week, Owl Meat did some digging and came up with a rather interesting topic: The law on drinking. Personally, I fought the law, and the law won. Owl Meat might have more luck. Here he is:
Twenty five years ago, Americans landed on college campuses and waded into the freedom and responsibility of adulthood. In most states, they had liberty to sip the frothy freedom of a cold beer or other adult libation.
But former Tinseltown party dude Ronald Reagan was about to harsh everyone's buzz. Congress passed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984.
Oh snap! The party was over and frat boys wept like purple doves.
Despite the name of the law, there is no national minimum drinking age nor is there one in Maryland. Dazed and confused? I was too. ...
The Maryland Underage Drinking Prevention Coalition summarizes the law:
"[the law] required all states to raise their minimum purchase and public possession of alcohol age to 21. States that did not comply faced a reduction in highway funds under the Federal Highway Aid Act. The U.S. Department of Transportation has determined that all states are in compliance with this act. The national law specifically prohibits purchase and public possession of alcoholic beverages. It does not prohibit persons under 21 from drinking."
That's interesting, but what does Maryland law specify? The following summary is from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. The text is literally excerpted, so don't blame me for weird grammar and shouty capitalization. Dig it.
(1) Underage Possession of Alcohol
Possession is prohibited WITH THE FOLLOWING EXCEPTION(S):
• parent/guardian consent
(2) Underage Consumption of Alcohol
Consumption is not explicitly prohibited
(3) Underage Purchase of Alcohol
Purchase is prohibited - no explicit exceptions noted in the law
(4) Furnishing of Alcohol to Minors
Furnishing is prohibited WITH THE FOLLOWING EXCEPTION(S):
• private residence AND EITHER
• - parent/guardian
• - legal-age spouse
• one or more specified religious, educational, or medical purposes
Notes: Maryland's exception allows furnishing of alcohol to minors by members of their immediate family when the alcoholic beverage is furnished and consumed "in a private residence or within the curtilage of the residence."
[Note: curtilage means yard.]
(5) Minimum Ages for On-Premises Servers and Bartenders
Beer 18 18
Wine 18 18
Spirits 18 21.
(6 ) Minimum Ages for Off-Premises Sellers
Notes: Maryland statutes allow for exceptions by specific localities within Maryland that may have more or less restrictive laws on the age to sell or serve alcoholic beverages.
(7) Blood Alcohol Concentration Limits:
Youth (Underage Operators of Noncommercial Motor Vehicles)
BAC limit: 0.00 – any detectable alcohol in the blood is per se (conclusive) evidence of a violation
Applies to drivers under age 21.
(8) Prohibitions Against Hosting Underage Drinking Parties
Action by underage guest that triggers violation: possession consumption.
Property type(s) covered by liability law: residence, outdoor, other.
Host must have actual knowledge of the occurrence
Exception(s): family, other (may include religious, medical, educational, or other exceptions)
Some observations and a caveat:
(1) My legal expertise comes from watching Law and Order.
(2) It's legal to send your kid down the street with her little red wagon to fetch another case of beer for the barbeque.
(3) I once suggested that the French practice of serving watered-down wine to children at dinner occasionally might be a healthy way to introduce them to alcohol. Apparently this is quite legal in Maryland.
(4) An 18 year old server at, for example, TGI Friday's can bring you a margarita, but the bartender has to be 21. Utterly Byzantine.
(5) A bartender told me that he used to make his own beer in college, because it was legal. He might be right.
I am not promoting underage drinking any more than I recommend wearing your sunglasses at night. My goal is to show how confusing the laws are. No doubt the laws vary among counties too, which makes this more difficult to understand than the popularity of Miley Cyrus, Totino's pizza rolls, or piano key ties.