Maryland lawmaker looks to allow younger troops to drink

Illustration by Amy Raudenbush, Philadelphia Daily News/TNS
Illustration by Amy Raudenbush, Philadelphia Daily News/TNS

Maryland lawmaker looks to allow younger troops to drink

by: Staff and wire reports | .
Stars and Stripes | .
published: February 28, 2015

Eighteen-year-old active-duty servicemembers can vote, smoke and fight for their country, but they can’t have a drink, and a Maryland senator is looking to change that in his home state.

Sen. Ronald Young, D-Frederick, has proposed a Maryland law that would allow active-duty servicemembers who are at least 18 years old to be served beer and wine at bars and restaurants.

Troops would be required to show military identification to be served.

Young introduced the bill because he believed those who put their lives on the line for the United States should be able to have a drink even if they are not 21 years old, the senator’s staff told Stars and Stripes.

The state’s general assembly scheduled a hearing Friday afternoon on the bill.

The Washington Regional Alcohol Program has spoken out against it.

Gregory Erickson, the organization’s president, told news radio outlet WTOP that the bill would violate a federal law on underage drinking, and as a result, could put $30 million in federal highway funds at risk.

Erickson said the law was enacted in the 1980s to stop youths from crossing state lines to drink, and driving afterward.

“The National Highway Traffic Safety [Administration] estimates that it saved almost 30,000 lives.”

But the bill has support from at least one influential veterans group.

Young’s staff said Friday that an amendment to the bill will require the Maryland Department of Transportation to get a waiver from the federal government ensuring highway money continues to flow before any change to the drinking laws goes forward.

A similar bill was voted down in the North Dakota statehouse earlier this month.

That bill would have allowed underage members of the military to consume alcohol on a military base if the commanding officer allowed it. The bill, introduced by Rep. Andrew Maragos, R-Minot, was amended to allow active military members to drink on “any premises licensed to sell alcoholic beverages.”

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