Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Amethyst disappointment

Looks like Trenton is setting up roadblocks to discussion about the minimum legal drinking age.

Check out this Star-Ledger story. Senate President Dick Codey is calling out New Jersey college and university presidents on beer, wine and spirits, asking them to say just what their institutions' policies are regarding the beverages. Additionally, the Legislature plans hearings this fall on underage drinking on campus.

(Here’s a thought for lawmakers: How about taking another crack a runaway property taxes, and keep working on that until you fix it, that and the fact New Jersey is hopelessly broke and willing to hock our toll roads and bill our small towns for state police patrols to pay the bills.)

Codey’s action comes in response to the "Amethyst Initiative," a movement of college and university presidents asking for a discussion on the minimum legal drinking age, which as we all know, has been 21 across the country for the last quarter century, ever since the federal government blackmailed states into adopting it or lose highway funding.

AI does not call for the drinking age to be lowered. It seeks a discussion on the issue. College and university presidents who back AI have taken the position that telling and expecting the under 21s to not drink isn’t reallying pulling the oars when it comes to actually thwarting underage drinking. (There's also an argument that other countries akin to the US that have lower drinking ages don't seem to have our problems.)

Nearly 130 college and university presidents have signed AI. Here, Drew U, Montclair State U and Stevens Institute of Technology are the sole higher education institutions to back it. The rest of the state’s college and university chiefs have balked. (Predictably, Mothers Against Drunk Drivers has gone apoplectic about AI.)

Given the fact that AI calls for a discussion, we think Codey (who by the way, doesn't drink beer, wine or spirits) has adopted a panic response (if the Ledger quoted him correctly), connecting discussion of the issue to lowering the drinking age.

C’mon, Dick. You really think it’s that slippery of a slope? And to shoot down the idea of discussion – we’re talking discussion, airing things out, sussing pros and cons – isn’t very democratic. It’s also kind of nanny state, Trenton knows best (not).

Meanwhile, the state has built another wall to talking about the issue: NJ21, a bunch of state agencies and nonprofits dog-piling on the topic with a giant over-our-dead-bodies attitude toward touching the drinking age. But again, AI doesn’t say lower it; it says let’s talk about the minimum drinking age.

(And Dick, if you or your staff read this, and think we’ve just endorsed a lowered age, you’ve missed again. We never turned that card up.)

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