Prior to the mid-1980s, the legal drinking age in the United States varied wildly from state to state.

But in 1984, all of that changed when the National Minimum Drinking Age Act went into effect, setting 21 years of age as the minimum legal drinking age in all 50 states.

So that means that teenagers have been forbidden from drinking legally for the past 39 years, right?

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Not exactly.

Would you believe there are exceptions in the books in 45 of the 50 states that allow teens to legally consume alcohol under certain circumstances?

According to the VinePair story, Teenagers Can Legally Drink in These States, there are five categories where the exceptions fall, according to the Alcohol Policy Information System, which is part of the National Institutes of Health:

  • Family: Drinking at home under the supervision of a parent or guardian is the most common exception.
  • Religious and Medical: 26 states currently permit minors to drink as part of religious ceremonies. Underage drinking is also permitted in specific medical circumstances. Many of these exceptions were created to allow children to take medications that contain trace amounts of alcohol, like cough syrup.
  • Educational and Business: Some culinary school students often have to cook with alcohol and taste their ingredients. Some states also make exceptions for students at qualified academic institutions that have programs in hotel management, culinary arts, enology, or brewing. Some states even allow underage law enforcement agents working undercover to purchase and/or consume alcohol if it applies to their current assignment.
States Where Some Teenagers Can Drink
Alcohol Policy Information System
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TRENDING FROM RESULTS-TOWNSQUARE MEDIA SIOUX FALLS


 

Some of those exceptions apply in the Tri-State area (South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota).

According to ProCon.org, Iowa allows minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) exceptions in four of the five categories - Family, Religious, Medical, and Business.

Here are what Iowa's laws say:

MLDA is 21 with the following exceptions: "A person under legal age who consumes or possesses any alcoholic beverage in connection with a religious observance, ceremony, or rite.... A person or persons under legal age shall not purchase or attempt to purchase, consume, or individually or jointly have alcoholic beverages in their possession or control; except in the case of any alcoholic beverage given or dispensed to a person under legal age within a private home and with the knowledge, presence, and consent of the parent or guardian, for beverage or medicinal purposes or as administered to the person by either a physician or dentist for medicinal purposes and except to the extent that a person under legal age may handle alcoholic beverages during the regular course of the person’s employment by a liquor control licensee, or wine or beer permittee under this chapter."

In South Dakota, three MLDA exceptions apply - Family, Religious, and Medical.

Here are what South Dakota's laws say:

MLDA is 21 with the following exceptions: "It is a Class 2 misdemeanor to sell or give for use as a beverage any alcoholic beverage to any person who is eighteen years of age or older but less than twenty-one years of age unless it is done in the immediate presence of a parent or guardian or spouse over twenty-one years of age or by prescription or direction of a duly licensed practitioner or nurse of the healing arts for medicinal purposes."

"It is a Class 2 misdemeanor for any person under the age of twenty-one years to purchase, attempt to purchase, or possess or consume alcoholic beverages except pursuant to § 35-9-1.1 or when consumed in a religious ceremony and given to the person by an authorized person"

"No person may be arrested or prosecuted for any misdemeanor offense of underage consumption, open container, or public intoxication, arising out of underage consumption of alcohol if that person contacts any law enforcement or emergency medical services and reports that a person is in need of emergency medical assistance due to alcohol consumption and that person: (1) Assists the person in need of emergency medical assistance until assistance arrives; and (2) Remains and cooperates with medical assistance and law enforcement personnel on the scene."

"No person under the age of twenty-one years may be prosecuted for any misdemeanor offense of underage consumption, open container, or public intoxication, arising out of underage consumption of alcohol if that person contacts law enforcement or emergency medical services and reports that he or she is in need of medical assistance due to alcohol consumption and that person remains and cooperates with medical assistance and law enforcement personnel on the scene."

In Minnesota, underage consumption is allowed under two exceptions - Family and Medical.

Here are what Minnesota's laws say:

MLDA is 21 with the following exceptions: "If proven by a preponderance of the evidence, it is an affirmative defense to a violation of this clause that the defendant consumed the alcoholic beverage in the household of the defendant's parent or guardian and with the consent of the parent or guardian."

"(a) A person is not subject to prosecution under subdivision 1, paragraph (a), clause (2), or subdivision 3, if the person contacts a 911 operator to report that the person or another person is in need of medical assistance for an immediate health or safety concern, provided that the person who initiates contact is the first person to make such a report, provides a name and contact information, remains on the scene until assistance arrives, and cooperates with the authorities at the scene. (b) The person who receives medical assistance shall also be immune from prosecution under paragraph (a)."

One state (Mississippi) even allows an exception for underage members of the Armed Forces.

The five states where there are no exceptions to the MLDA are:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Idaho
  • New Hampshire
  • West Virginia

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