Which states had 21- drinking ages?

Does anybody know where I can find a chart or map of which US states once had drinking ages lower than 21 and the dates they were lowered and raised?

Texas was 18 in 1979, changed to 19 (probably) in 1980, then 21 in 1986.

This just from memory, I turned 18 in March of '79, and graduated the same year. I was legally able to purchase alcohol the last couple of months of my senior year. Then I remember they raised the age to 19 after I had turned 19 and I was 21 well before they got it up to 21.

After the 26th Amendment (18 year old vote) was ratified in 1971, a lot of states that had drinking ages of 21, lowered them to 18. As Duke noted, a lot of them raised the minimum age in the 1980s.

Not Louisiana. It figured out a way to keep an 18 year old drinking age all the way through the mid-1990’s (when I lived in New Orleans),

I did a little Googling on it (never found the list requested) and I didn’t realize that at the end of prohibition, 21 was pretty much the de facto drinking age in the entire country. Not until the 26th Amendment did some states (I saw references to 15 states, so that should narrow the search down a bit) lower it, only to raise it back up in the early 80s, evidently from lobbying efforts by MADD.

The national 21 drinking age was set in 1984, with 2 years for states to comply or lose federal highway funds. That’s why the 21 limit was set once again in Texas in 1986.

Either Wisconsin or Minnesota (I forget which; and as soon as I pick one, it’ll turn out that the other state was really correct) used to have a lower drinking age, 18 or 19. They raised it, probably close to the 1984-1986 range (I was little, so memories are hazy), not only to keep federal funds, but also because it was rather a large hassle policing the border as teens would cross over en masse.

It seems every year Wisconsin talks about lowering the drinking age again, and every year a number of college Freshmen at assorted colleges riot when it fails to pass. And it always fails to pass, due to the federal funding issue.

Florida has a lot of liquor stores at the Florida/Georgia boundary. I’m not sure if they are there because the neighboring Georgia counties are dry, or if it was because Georgia was 21.

Florida was 18 until the mid 80s.


Best I could find.

That site lists New York as changing to 21 in 1985, although I seem to remember it being a little later than that. 1986 or 1987. I only remember (and I could very well be remembering wrong) because I turned 18 in 1988 and lived in NJ. I was looking forward to drinking legally, without a fake ID. Supposedly one of the reasons they changed it was the fact that lots of teenagers were driving from NJ to NY and then driving drunk back to NJ.

Maryland’s was 18 for beer and wine and 21 for hard liquor, and changed it to 21 for everything in 1982. It was grandfathered in starting July 1st, meaning anyone who was already 18 could still purchase beer and wine, but anyone who turned 18 after July 1, 1982 was SOL.
I turned 18 in November.

Louisiana forfeited federal highway funds all during that time, IIRC.

Ontario was (probably still is) age 19 for a long time. At some point Michigan (just next store, eh?) made it illegal for people under 21 to drive with any amount of alcohol in their systems at all. I keep hoping some little kid will challenge what appears to be an abuse of the state’s jurisdiction.

I was SOL on the other end of that law. In June 1972, I was arrested for “minor in possession of alcohol” at the age of 18. The Maryland law lowering the drinking age from 21 to 18 took effect on July 1, 1972.

New York certainly predated that; I was legally able to drink in 1969 when I turned 18. (I had been drinking illegally in bars several years before that, even without fake ID. Enforcement was pretty lax, at least in the Bronx. :slight_smile: )

Colorado had a split drinking age (18 for 3.2% beer, 21 for everything else) when I left there in the 70’s. I know it’s changed since then, but I don’t know when.

Are you sure you have the year right? I turned 16 on April 30, 1973. That year was the year I remember that law going into effect. On the same day the law took effect I drove to a liquor store on York Road and bought a six-pack. I asked the clerk if he was having a busy day due to the new law and he said not particularly, and then sold to me without carding me.

If it had been 1972 I wouldn’t have had a driver’s license.

I tried to look it up in Maryland Online Archives but their searching isn’t great.

Lousiana never actually forfeited federal highway funds. The state carefully crafted a set of laws to qualify to letter of the federal highway bill.

They made it illegal for people 18 to 21 to buy alcohol (with no penalty) but legal for stores and bars to continue to sell it to them and legal to possess it in public. I was in college in New Orleans from 1991 - 1995 and it was effectively 100% legal for people 18 - 21 to drink. We weren’t barred from anything and never had to hide anything even in our dorms or on campus. We could drink in any bar etc.

It was a clever series of laws. I supsect the feds left the state alone because it has New Orleans and Mardi Gras and that stuff is pretty important there.

Louisiana started tightening up drinking laws on its own after 1997. It still has big loopholes that are there on purpose but it is more strict technically than it once was.

I don’t know if other states could get away with the same type of thing but it worked there.

Ontario is still 19. It was 21 for many years, then dropped to 18 from about 1971 or 72 until January 1, 1979, when it was raised to 19. The age in Ontario was grandfathered as well, meaning that if you were 18 before January 1, 1979 but would not turn 19 until sometime in 1979, you could still buy alcohol legally before you turned 19. But turn 18 on or after that cutoff date? Nope, sorry.

I remember it well, because I was one of those who was grandfathered in. Woo-hoo!

Okay, if you were there I’ll take your word. But I do recall reading somewhere (sorry, no cite) that the feds gradually increased the pressure on the legislature, perhaps by threatening withholding? It was long ago.

I can believe the feds increased pressure but the stories coming out of the legislature was that MADD groups (isn’t that always the way) had a powerful lobby and good numbers to back up their claims so they decided to up the age in many ways.

Nope. New York changed on January 1, 1986, at 4:01 A.M. Can anyone guess how old I was then?

Richard Price makes a reference to “not needing to be 18 in the Bronx” in The Wanderers. That book was essentially about the guys he grew up with, so I’m assuming he knows what he’s talking about. It took place in the very early 60s. When I get a chance, I’ll ask aroung. I’m pretty sure 18 goes back previous to the 50s.