A license to drink? (alcohol)

The other night I had random thoughts comparing drinking and driving (not a combination of the two)

The various states have laws enacted to attempt to make people safer drivers (and to collect fees of course, probably the main motivation). Teens can’t drive until a certain age, and before that they must take a drivers course, must pass the drivers test, and a hands on driving test. They must get their license renewed at certain intervals, and there are restrictions that can be added (vision, etc)

If people don’t want the privilege of driving, they can avoid all that, the fees, etc. It’s a personal choice.

What if you applied some of these to drinking? If it was a privilege, a person needed to get a license to drink, and it had to be renewed every few years (and problems like drunk driving would be noticed). This would work for drinking at bars and you’d have to have the license to buy alcohol. (one bad aspect is I know it’d be hard to keep people from buying it and sharing with others)

I realize I’m glossing things over a bit, in fact, a LOT. There are probably lots of bad sides to this. I don’t even know if it’d be a good idea at all.

But it’d be interesting to talk about. I have no other specifications or details. It was just a random thought. I suspect it’d be a legal mess in reality.

Any thoughts on “having a license to drink”?

Your’s is the obvious solution to the problem - probably doesn’t have a chance.


Why is the drinking age set after the age for driving? It seems since drinking is a problem for some of the population it would make far more sense to make the drinking age first, giving time for people to work out, or at least establish patterns with drinking, before giving them a license to drive. The current system is allow them to drive, and depend on driving to make a living then give them alcohol once they are dependent on driving.

What would the test be?

“Oh, man, I was so close to getting my drinker’s license, but then I totally blew the Jaeger shots part. Projectiled all over the instructor. I am so bummed.”

“Dude, that sucks. Now you gotta wait six months. Don’t worry me and Cletus will help you practice, so you’ll ace it next time.”

Seriously we have driver’s tests because driving is a skill. You have to learn how to do it. You’ve been consuming liquids from almost the moment you left your mother’s womb.

Here’s the biggest point, as I see it.

What would the policy be for licensure? What, specifically, could you get denied or suspended for?
“This is your second DUI conviction in 10 years. We are revoking your drinker’s license. You can get it back after either 5 years without an alcohol related conviction, or with a licensed therapist, doctor, or clergyman’s evaluation that you are free of problem drinking habits.”

“Sorry, you failed the drinker’s exam. No license for you. On question #5, for a 180 pound man, you underestimated the number of drinks in one hour that leads to loss of conciousness. Study the chart in the California State Drinker’s Handbook and come back after at least 6 weeks.”

“It seems that your parents both lost their drinking licenses due to problem drinking. Drinking problems tend to run in families. We’ll need to see a doctor’s note before we can issue you a license.”

I have thought about the possibility of having a “Smoker’s License”. We could make people pass tests on the dangers of tobacco, then issue them a license. Then, the fact that they have a license can be used to discriminate. Of course, since they passed the test, they are now on official record as admitting that tobacco is dangerous, so they pretty much don’t have much legal standing to sue the tobacco companies. The problem is the administrative and policy details - how do you tailor an evaluative instrument that is good enough? You would pretty much have to grandfather a lot of existing smokers and give them at least an interim license, or you could have people who have been smoking for 30 years suddenly facing and failing the licensure exam, then realizing that their only outlet is to go onto the black market, which many would do.

Now that’s a nanny state.

I presume that you would have to show it to buy or be served alcohol in a public setting. If your license is suspended you get to be the designated driver for the next couple of years.
I think it could work.

No thanks. I already have to show a license to drink in a public setting.

What’s the connection between your first sentence and your second? If you already have to show a licence to drink in a public setting, it wouldn’t seem to impose much of an extra burden, on drinkers or enforcers, to implement some version of the OP’s proposal.

Drinking and not being an ass can be a skill as well. I would see the test/class as covering the medical issues and societal problems as well as a possible lab where you drink yourself sick (under supervision) or try to operate a car at the legal limit so you understand fully the results.

Public intoxication, fines for drinking and driving below the legal limit of “drunk”, mandatory above the legal limit, harsher terms for domestic violence when alcohol is involved. Punish those who drink without a license as we punish those who drive without a license - or use unregistered firearms.
Those are the arguments. Personally I think it would be the greatest black-market business opportunity we’ve seen in our lifetimes but that’s just me.

Honestly I think the waiting for the “drinking age” causes more problems than it helps.
In Europe there is no enforced drinking age and they have far fewer alcohol related problems than we do here.
If people grew up around drinking, they would probably be a bit more responsible themselves about alcohol.

This being Great Debates, I’ll go ahead and ask:

What is the basis for your assertion that collecting fees is probably the main motivation for the legal requirement of having a license to drive a car on the public roadways?

The Netherlands, France and Germany all have an age requirement for alcohol sales; In NL, you need to be 16 years old for beer and 18+ for hard alcohol, and I think that both FR and DE are the same…

If I were in charge, a “licence to drink” would be easy to get, but you’d forfeit it if you got a DUI (or some other serious alcohol-related offence).

You could also voluntarily forfeit it, if you were an alcoholic trying to give up drinking.

Most of the social/medical stuff is covered in high school health classes and is also common sense. Learning how to drink is something you’re really going to have to do on their own. I wish more parents took initiative here. Believe me, the drunk 22year olds are really annoying in my neighborhood. The idea of a bureaucrat requiring me to drink myself silly to get permission to drink a couple of beers at my local perturbs me.

I completely agree that drunk driving should merit stiff punishments, including jail terms for the second offense, at least, as well as stiff fines, DL suspension, and mandatory classes. I don’t think a drinkers liscence would really help things. It’s not the drinking that’s a problem, it’s the driving. you can drink yourself into a stupor if you want, just let someone else take you home. A drinkers license is an irrelevant nuisance and a burden on those who drink and don’t drive. Similar argument for domestic violence.

Yes. It would also require states to create a large and expensive bureaucracy when many of them are suffering severe budget problems.

No kidding.

Licensed driving takes place entirely in public places, and constitutes an inherent danger to other people. Not true of drinking.

Other than the cost and hassle of applying for/maintaining yet another license, no, not much of a burden.

Exactly what problem is this proposal a solution for, that is not already addressed by current laws?

I am mixed on if I think drinking permits are a good idea or not but -------

Having been a part of the debate on a serious level one of the things discussed is some sort of fine for any drinking and driving. In other words, a .02 would bring a fine of X dollars and whatever else, .04 you get Y fine and whatever else. At .08 you go to jail. You do not pass go and you do not collect $200.00. Having a license required to both drive or drink gives you two ways of enforcing the encouraged behavior and two punishments for those who choose not to obey.

The argument is that since impairment starts with the first drink, the punishment should as well - and on both behaviors at once. Its an argument I sort of like and agree with and that could be something to grow out of this debate.

The drinking until one is sick as part of the “training and testing” – I have had it seriously proposed at times and I agree with you. That seems a little overkill. But the medical aspects being covered in high school is a YMMV thing. If it is around here most of my younger relatives must have missed that day; other than a basic “alcohol is bad - m’kay?” they didn’t get much.

I do like the idea of having people who drink drive a test course buzzed or better. I know - I know - we’ve seen it on Mythbusters and everywhere else. But its one of those things you think is “other people” until you put yourself against those orange cones.


I was really being more sarcastic than I should have been. I do realize it’s really about safety. Sorry about that.

Interesting idea but I don’t see the point in it. The only thing it would do is sort of limit self access to alcohol in certain venues.