Bills that would lower Vermont's drinking age from 21 to 18 and call on the U.S. Congress not to penalize the state for doing so were the subject of a recent hearing in the Vermont legislature, the Associated Press reported Jan. 21.
The hearing included testimony from John McCardell, the former president of Middlebury College who now heads the group Choose Responsibility and has advocated nationally for lowering the drinking age. McCardell argues that the age-21 law unintentionally encourages unsafe drinking by driving it underground, and that federal law linking enforcement of the age-21 law to federal highway funding has helped stifle debate on the issue.
Arguing against the legislation was David Jernigan, a Johns Hopkins professor who said lowering the drinking age would encourage even younger adolescents to drink.
Some state lawmakers said that the state, not Washington, should be able to choose its drinking age.