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Codey Blast Move To Lower Drinking Age, Asks Congressional Delegation For Backing

Senate President Richard J. Codey with Kyle Roll

TRENTON – Senate President Richard J. Codey (D-Essex) today blasted the movement by a group of college presidents to lower the legal drinking age, firing off a letter to New Jersey’s Congressional delegation asking them to block any such movement at the national level and vowing to make sure that New Jersey’s drinking age remains at 21 in the interest of public safety.

“This has to be the most reckless movement I’ve seen in a long time. What’s next? Legalizing drugs so we can help stop addicts from overindulging?” said Codey. “This is nothing more than college presidents passing the buck instead of thinking of more constructive ways to crack down on underage drinking. Furthermore, it opens up the floodgates to allow alcohol into the hands of high school students who are 18.”

“The statistics speak for themselves – 1,700 college students die each year, and there are 97,000 assaults or rape and 600,000 injuries all directly related to alcohol. Since we increased the drinking age to 21, MADD estimates that we have saved 25,000 lives and have seen an 11 percent drop in alcohol related traffic deaths. To lower the drinking age simply condemns thousands of our youth to death or serious injury in the future.”

In addition to sending a letter to New Jersey’s entire Congressional delegation asking them to oppose any attempts at the national level to ease restrictions under the National Minimum Drinking Age Act, Codey also vowed to block any such changes at the state level.

“The feds control the reins in terms of what incentives are offered to states to keep their drinking age at 21. But ultimately, any changes in New Jersey’s legal drinking age would have to be done at the state level. I can promise you this, as long as I am Senate President, our drinking age will remain at 21. Anything else would be outright foolish.”

“As parents, certainly we need to stay on top of our kids and have frank discussions about the dangers of drinking. But schools need to claim some responsibility as well. I’m not hip, but I have a son who’s a sophomore in college and another who graduated not too long ago, so I know what college life is like. Giving kids a free pass to drink is not going to curb their appetite for alcohol. It will only serve to open the floodgates and put alcohol in the hands of high school kids as well.”

A full copy of Codey’s letter to New Jersey’s Congressional delegation is included below:

September 3, 2008

Honorable Members of New Jersey’s Congressional Delegation:

You are probably well aware that a group calling themselves the Amethyst Initiative have begun a national movement to debate and rethink the legal drinking age. This group, comprised mainly of college presidents and chancellors, has ceremoniously decided that the drinking age of 21 does not work. More simply put – it does not work for them.

Clearly they have thrown up their arms in the effort to curb underage abuses of alcohol, something that we all know pervades most college campuses. In the face of this callous movement, I am appealing to you, the members of New Jersey’s Congressional delegation, to oppose any such movement at the national level that would attempt to lower the legal drinking age or remove incentives for states to keep the drinking age at 21.

Rather than throwing in the towel, colleges should make a more concerted effort to partner with local law enforcement, not only to crack down on liquor establishments serving to minors, but to enforce anti-drinking laws on college campuses, as well as off-campus housing when at all possible. Furthermore, perhaps they should consider incorporating effective alcohol awareness programs into their curriculums or orientation programs, one that clearly illustrates examples of how dangerous drinking habits have cost lives.

I know this is not an easy task, in fact, as the father of two college-age sons, I know it may be Herculean in nature, but it’s our duty. The risks of lowering the drinking age demand it. Should we cave to this capricious demand, we would not only be allowing 18-year-old high school students unfettered access to alcohol, but we also risk seeing a rise in drunk driving accidents and fatalities.

In the nearly 25 years since Congress passed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act, we have witnessed a marked increase in the number of lives saved on the road each year. We cannot afford to see that number reverse itself. I trust that you will take all of this into consideration should the debate rise before Congress. Your attention to this matter is appreciated.


Richard J. Codey

Senate President