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Initiative seeks to lower Colorado's drinking age to 18

Posted at 8:35 PM, Nov 28, 2016

DENVER -- For James Leamon, the age of 18 is a big right of passage.

"We can go to war," Leamon said. "People think we're responsible enough to carry a gun, get permits for a gun. We can also go in the jury box, but we can't drink."

It's that he hopes to change. Leamon is one of two activists pushing to lower Colorado's legal alcohol consumption age from 21 to 18. He'll need 108,000 to get it on the 2018 ballot.

"We were the first to legalize marijuana. We were the first for many things in this nation, and I believe we could be the first to lower the alcohol age," Leamon said.

Leamon points to the fact that the United States is one of just four developed countries worldwide with a drinking age over the age of 18. That's due in large part to a 1984 federal law tying federal funding for our highways to drinking ages. If we lower ours, we can say goodbye to 8 percent of our federal apportionment. For people like Matt Guyer, that's a major sticking point.

"If you're going to lose federal funding, I don't think it would be worth it," Guyer said.

The National Traffic Highway Administration estimates the newer, 21 age requirement, has saved about 900 lives every year.

Proponents argue teens are already drinking before 21, so why not teach them to do it responsibly.

"Everyone drinks illegally under 21 anyway by that time, so let's just make it more legal, regulated," said Abigail Simon.

In a statement, Mothers Against Drunk Drivers said, "MADD strongly opposes lowering the minimum drinking age to 18.  The 21 drinking age is one of the most studied public health laws in our nation and has saved thousands of lives since its passage."

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