Proposed California Ballot Initiative That Would Lower Drinking Age to 18 Cleared to Collect Signatures

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A proposed ballot initiative seeks to lower the minimum drinking age to 18. (Credit:A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looks at drinking rates during pregnancy. (Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)

A proposed ballot initiative that would lower the minimum legal drinking age in the state from 21 to 18 has been cleared to begin collecting signatures, according to California Secretary of State Alex Padilla.

If it receives enough signatures to qualify for the November 2016 ballot, voters will be able to decide whether 18- to- 20-year-olds will be able to legally purchase and consume alcohol beverages in California.

A bill establishing the national minimum drinking age to 21 was passed in 1984.

The measure’s proponent, Terrance Lynn, has 180 days — until April 26, 2016 —  to collect 365,880 signatures in order for the initiative to qualify for the ballot, Padilla announced last Friday.

Lynn initially sent the proposal to Attorney General Kamala Harris on Aug. 23, 2015, a document on the office’s website showed.

On his website, Lynn explained that he proposed the initiative because, “This is about equal rights. 18 year olds have nearly every burden and privilege of adults … except the right to drink alcohol. This is a misguided aberration from 1984 that should be corrected.”

The nonprofit Mothers Against Drunk Driving opposes lowering the legal drinking age. According to the organization, more than 25,000 lives have been saved in the country since it was raised to 21.

“When states had lower legal drinking ages in the U.S., the underage drinking problem was worse. For example, before the 21 minimum legal drinking age was implemented by all states, underage drunk drivers were involved in over twice as many fatal traffic crashes as today,” MADD’s website stated.

If the measure is approved, the state would lose $200 million in federal highway funds, according to a fiscal impact on state and local governments from the Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance.

It would also lead to an increase of state and local tax revenues from the sales of alcoholic beverages, possibly totaling several million dollars each year, the Secretary of State’s website stated.

While all states prohibit providing alcohol to anyone under the age of 21, some have limited exceptions relating to religious reasons, lawful employment, or consent by a parent or guardian, according to the Federal Trade Commission.