Lower Drinking Age For Marines

The Marine Corps Times reported this last week that on April 19 US Marine Corps commandant General James T. Conway issued a change of alcohol policies for Marines under the age of 21. The new rules decriminalize welcome-home beer for underage Marines returning from deployment and giving commanders the authority to hold an 18-and-up kegger on base upon a unit’s return from a war zone. According to North County Times of San Diego, a 1995 rule dictated that underage marines were held to drinking age of the states in which they were stationed. Permitting alcohol consumption is now at the discretion of base commanders.

In addition to this domestic policies, Marines will now be held accountable to the legal drinking age laws of the countries they are stationed in. Previously, Marines under 21 were forced to abide by the 21 year-old drinking age even if the laws made it legal for 18 year-olds to drink. Under the new policies marines will be held to the laws of the country in which they are stationed. If the drinking age is an age lower than 18, an 18 year-old legal drinking age will be enforced. This should be of minimal consequence because of those 17 year-old recruits that exist in the marines few, it would seem, would still be 18 upon deployment.

Critics of the law suggest that increased access to alcohol could lead to increased alcohol-related traffic fatalities for marines stationed at home. However, the marines quoted in the above articles, all of whom support the law, suggest that because these underage marines are already drinking, the new rule will provide an incentive to bring that drinking back on base under the control of the base commander.

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