Where Is It Legal to Drink Under 21 in the US? This Map Shows Drinking Laws by State


Think mom offering her middle schooler a sip of beer at dinner is illegal? Turns out, there are plenty of states where youngsters who are under 21 are privy to alcohol — oftentimes with parental consent. 

There are several other loopholes to America's drinking age. Surprise! When you're under 21 years old, drinking wine during a religious holiday, tasting cocktails in a hospitality college course, or drinking a spirit if it's prescribed by a physician is actually legal in certain states. 

But states have very different rules and regulations on drinking. Check out this map from the data analysts at HealthGroove that visualizes how each state approaches underage drinking.

Here Are the Places You Can Drink When You're Under 21

The laws can be incredibly confusing and sometimes contradictory. For example: In California, a minor can possess alcohol on private property, yet it's illegal for someone over 21 to provide minors with alcohol, no exceptions, according to the Alcohol Policy Information Systems website. Huh. 

Here are a few of the most common reasons you can sip on an adult beverage before you're 21 years old, according to ProCon.org. Just note: These is not an exhaustive list and there may be exceptions if a town or city (e.g. a college town) has additional rules and regulations in place. 

1. You're on private property and your parents say you can. 

In a private home or private office and parents say alcohol is a-ok? You can imbibe. 

29 States: Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming

2. You're on private property, period. 

In these states, you don't need your parents' permission to drink on private property. 

6 States: Louisiana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, Oklahoma, South Carolina

3. You're in a restaurant (or another alcohol-selling establishment) and your parents say you can.  

Out to dinner? If your parents give you permission, you can legally be served. 

10 states: Connecticut, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nevada, Ohio, Texas, Wisconsin, Wyoming

4. Your religion says so. 

You can drink wine during a church ceremony or a seder. 

26 states: Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Washington, Wyoming

5. You're learning about alcohol in school. 

You can drink if you're a hospitality student — for the sake of your education.

11 states: Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont

6. Your doctor says so. 

If a doctor prescribes you alcohol, you may imbibe. (Example: Drinking before anesthesia or to help treat alcohol withdrawal, ironically enough.) 

16 states: Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Utah, Washington, Wyoming

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