Last week MADD testified in support of House Bill 1925 (Rep. William Brownsberger) in front of the Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse. Under Massachusetts' current underage drinking laws (Chapter 138 Section 34) it is illegal for persons under 21 to purchase, possess and transport alcohol. However, the law does not include the consumption of alcohol by minors.
Underage alcohol use is the number one drug problem among Massachusetts' youth. Although it is illegal to sell or give alcohol to people under the age of 21, approximately half of MA high school students have drank alcohol in the past month. Underage alcohol use plays a major role in the top 3 leading causes of deaths among young people: unintentional injuries/motor vehicle crashes, homicide and suicide.
The National Academies of Science noted underage drinking as a national problem in its 2003 report to Congress, "Reducing Underage Drinking: A Collective Responsibility." One of the reports many recommendations is replacing criminal sanctions with civil penalties to reduce societal opposition, and to increase enforcement of the Uniform Minimum Drinking Age.
House Bill 1925 closes a significant loophole in our underage drinking law by adding consumption to the law and offering a civil option in addition to the current criminal options. the bill would also establish a Youth Alcohol Education Program in the Department of Public Health. The civil sanctions would include a citation given to the youth, copied to parents/guardians of those under 18, and a fine or appropriate brief alcohol screening and intervention.
House Bill 1925 offers a uniform statewide response to possession, attempt to purchase, purchase, consumption, and transportation of alcohol by those under age 21. This public health program would not be offered to youth involved in impaired driving, other acts of violence, or youth with a prior criminal record. This legislation promotes a public health approach to underage drinking instead of a criminal justice approach.
The bill creates a positive and effective alternative for law enforcement to hold youth accountable for their action and also helps alert their parents or guardians of the high risks associated with underage drinking.
Please take a moment and use the link below to contact your legislators and the members of the Joint Committee on Mental Health and Substance Abuse and ask them to support House Bill 1925.
Please click here to contact your legislators and the Committee.