What Can You Legally Do When You Turn 21?

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When an individual turns 21 years old in the United States, he can legally drink alcohol in all 50 states. If a 21-year-old individual resides in Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, California, Alaska, Masachusetts, Maine or Washington, he is able to legally purchase marijuana for recreational use.

The National Minimum Drinking Act was passed in July 1984 by the U.S. Congress. It stated that all states had a minimum drinking age of 21. Despite having a legal drinking age, studies have shown it does little to deter underage drinking. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that alcohol is the most abused drug among those under 21 in the United States. The CDC estimated that emergency rooms saw 189,000 alcohol related visits by those who are underage. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), underage alcohol use is also responsible for 5,000 deaths per year. Adolescents continually start to drink alcohol at younger ages. The NIAAA reported the average age of initial alcohol use was 14. This figure is down from 17.5 in 1965. Individuals who started drinking alcohol before the age of 15 were four times more likely to become dependent on alcohol at some point in their lives.