45 States That Allow Underage (under 21) Alcohol Consumption


45 states have exceptions to allow underage consumption of alcohol under certain circumstances. Five states (Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, New Hampshire, and West Virginia) have no such exceptions.
[Editor's Note: The information below is not in any way intended to be legal advice or to encourage alcohol consumption by people under the age of 21. The laws presented include only state laws regarding underage consumption of alcohol. We have excluded county and city ordinances that may further restrict underage drinking as well as laws against people furnishing alcohol to underage people. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the data provided, do not rely on this information without first checking current applicable law.]
I. Eight Exceptions to the Minimum Legal Drinking Age (MLDA) of 21
II. State-by-State Guide to Underage Alcohol Consumption Laws and Exceptions
III. Explanation of the Eight Exceptions to the MLDA


I. Eight Exceptions to the Minimum Legal Drinking Age (MLDA) of 21
Underage alcohol consumption allowed... States
1. on private, non alcohol-selling premises, with parental consent in 29 states Examples: private home, private office, or private property with parental presence and consent 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. on private, non alcohol-selling premises, without parental consent in 6 states Examples: private home, private office, or private property without parental consent or presence Louisiana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, Oklahoma, South Carolina
3. for religious purposes in 26 states Example: drinking wine during a church ceremony 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
4. for medical purposes in 16 states Example: medical treatment prescribed or administered by a licensed physician Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Utah, Washington, Wyoming
5. for government work related purposes in 4 states Examples: working undercover with police and participating in government research Michigan, Mississippi, Oregon, South Carolina
6. for educational purposes in 11 states Example: students in culinary school Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont
7. when reporting medical need due to underage drinking for another minor in 17 states and DC Example: underage drinker calls 911 to report medical emergency for another underage drinker California, Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington
8. on alcohol-selling premises, with parental approval in 10 states Examples: restaurant, bar, or a venue where alcohol is sold Connecticut, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nevada, Ohio, Texas, Wisconsin, Wyoming


II. State-by-State Guide to Underage Alcohol Consumption Laws and Exceptions
State Underage Consumption of Alcohol Is Allowed: Notes and Link to Law
1. Alabama Underage consumption of alcohol is prohibited with no exceptions. Section 28-1-5
2. Alaska
  • on private non alcohol-selling premises, with parental consent
  • for medical purposes
AS 04.16.050; AS 04.16.151
3. Arizona
  • for religious purposes
  • for medical purposes
4-226; 4-244; 4-249
4. Arkansas Underage consumption of alcohol is prohibited with no exceptions. Although underage consumption of alcohol is not explicitly prohibited in the law, underage possession of alcohol is prohibited without exceptions. According to the Alcohol Policy Information System (APIS), "Possession and consumption are closely linked because consumption generally requires possession."
Source: Alcohol Policy Information System (APIS) website (accessed May 21, 2010) 3-3-203
5. California
  • when reporting medical need due to underage drinking for another minor
Applies to an underage person reporting a medical need due to alcohol consumption for either himself or herself, or another person. On May 23, 2012, ProCon.org received an email from John Carr, Public Information Officer at California ABC (Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control), confirming that possession and consumption of alcoholic beverages by minors is illegal in California: "Current Law states that a person must be 21 years of age to consume or purchase alcohol, it is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to drink or purchase alcohol. Section 25658 of the California Business and Professions Code states: (a) Except as otherwise provided in subdivision (c), every person who sells, furnishes, gives, or causes to be sold, furnished, or given away any alcoholic beverage to any person under 21 years of age is guilty of a misdemeanor. (b) Except as provided in Section 25667, any person under 21 years of age who purchases any alcoholic beverage, or any person under 21 years of age who consumes any alcoholic beverage in any on-sale premises, is guilty of a misdemeanor." 11999-11999.3; 25657-25667
6. Colorado
  • on private non alcohol-selling premises, with parental consent
  • for religious purposes
  • for medical purposes
  • for educational purposes
  • when reporting medical need due to underage drinking for another minor
Owner of property must be aware of the underage drinking.
The law permits a student who "tastes but does not imbibe an alcohol beverage only while under the direct supervision of an instructor who is at least twenty-one years of age and employed by a post-secondary school; Is enrolled in a university or a post-secondary school accredited or certified by an agency recognized by the United States department of education, a nationally recognized accrediting agency or association, or the 'Private Occupational Education Act of 1981', article 59 of title 12, C.R.S.; Is participating in a culinary arts, food service, or restaurant management degree program; and tastes but does not imbibe the alcohol beverage for instructional purposes as a part of a required course in which the alcohol beverage, except the portion the student tastes, remains under the control of the instructor."
18-13-122
7. Connecticut
  • on private non alcohol-selling premises, with parental consent
  • for religious purposes
  • for medical purposes
  • on alcohol-selling premises with parental consent
Although underage consumption of alcohol is not explicitly prohibited in the law, underage possession of alcohol is prohibited. According to the Alcohol Policy Information System (APIS), "Possession and consumption are closely linked because consumption generally requires possession." Source: Alcohol Policy Information System (APIS) website (accessed May 21, 2010) A minor may possess alcohol only "while accompanied by a parent, guardian or spouse of the minor, who has attained the age of twenty-one." Sec. 30-1; 30-89
8. Delaware
  • on private non alcohol-selling premises, with parental consent
  • for religious purposes
  • when reporting medical need due to underage drinking for another minor
"Delaware's exception includes 'members of the same family' and allows consumption if in 'private home of any of said members.'" Source: "State Profle of Underage Drinking Laws: Delaware," Alcohol Policy Information System (APIS) website (accessed May 21, 2010) Title 4 Chapter 9 SB 116
State Underage Consumption of Alcohol Is Allowed... Notes and Link to Law
District of Columbia
  • when reporting medical need due to underage drinking for another minor
DC Official Code § 7-401 Section 3 25-1002
9. Florida
  • for educational purposes
The law permits "the tasting of alcoholic beverages by a student who is at least 18 years of age" as part of a course at an accredited post-secondary educational institution, but the student may not "consume or imbibe" the alcohol. 562.111
10. Georgia
  • on private non alcohol-selling premises, with parental consent
  • for religious purposes
  • for medical purposes
§ 3-3-23
11. Hawaii
  • for religious purposes
§ 281-101.5
12. Idaho Underage consumption of alcohol is prohibited with no exceptions. 23-949
13. Illinois
  • on private non alcohol-selling premises, with parental consent
  • for religious purposes
  • for educational purposes
The law permits a student 18 years of age or older who "tastes, but does not imbibe, alcoholic liquor for instructional purposes up to, but not exceeding, 6 times per class as a part of a required course in which the student temporarily possesses alcoholic liquor for tasting, not imbibing, purposes only in a class setting on the campus and, thereafter, the alcoholic liquor is possessed and remains under the control of the instructor." 235 ILCS 5/6-20
14. Indiana
  • when reporting medical need due to underage drinking for another minor
IC 7.1-1-3-25; 7.1-5-7-7; 7.1-5-1-6.5
15. Iowa
  • on private non alcohol-selling premises, with parental consent
  • for medical purposes
123.3; 123.47
16. Kansas
  • on private non alcohol-selling premises, with parental consent
  • on alcohol-selling premises with parental consent
"Kansas has an exception permitting persons under 21 years of age to consume alcohol but the exception applies only to cereal malt beverages (defined as any fermented but undistilled liquor brewed or made from malt or from a mixture of malt or malt substitute, but not including any such liquor which is more than 3.2 percent ABW)." Source: "State Profle of Underage Drinking Laws: Kansas," Alcohol Policy Information System (APIS) website (accessed May 21, 2010) 41-727; 41-2701
State Underage Consumption of Alcohol Is Allowed... Notes and Link to Law
17. Kentucky
  • when reporting medical need due to underage drinking for another minor
244.085 KRS Ch. 244 Sec. 1
18. Louisiana
  • on private non alcohol-selling premises, with parental consent
  • on private, non alcohol-selling premises, without parental consent
  • for religious purposes
  • for medical purposes
  • on alcohol-selling premises with parental consent
The law states that "public possession" of alcohol includes at a club, which is "de facto open to the public." Underage public possession and consumption of alcohol is not prohibited if the underage person is accompanied by a parent or guardian who is at least 21 years old. §93.10; 93.12
19. Maine
  • on private non alcohol-selling premises, with parental consent
§2051
20. Maryland
  • on private non alcohol-selling premises, with parental consent
  • for religious purposes
Underage possession and consumption of alcohol is allowed if "the individual possessing or consuming the alcoholic beverage and the adult who furnished the alcoholic beverage to the individual or allowed the individual to possess or consume the alcoholic beverage are members of the same immediate family." §10–114
21. Massachusetts
  • on private non alcohol-selling premises, with parental consent
  • on alcohol-selling premises with parental consent
Although underage consumption of alcohol is not explicitly prohibited in the law, underage possession of alcohol is prohibited unless the underage person is accompanied by a parent or legal guardian or if the person is over the age of 18 and possesses alcohol in the course of employment. According to the Alcohol Policy Information System (APIS), "Possession and consumption are closely linked because consumption generally requires possession." Source: Alcohol Policy Information System (APIS) website (accessed May 21, 2010) Chapter 138: Section 34C
22. Michigan
  • for religious purposes
  • for gov't work related purposes
  • for educational purposes
  • when reporting medical need due to underage drinking for another minor
436.1703
State Underage Consumption of Alcohol Is Allowed... Notes and Link to Law
23. Minnesota
  • on private non alcohol-selling premises, with parental consent
  • when reporting medical need due to underage drinking for another minor
Consumption is permitted only "in the household of the defendant's parent or guardian and with the consent of the parent or guardian." 340A.503 Subdivision 8
24. Mississippi
  • on private non alcohol-selling premises, with parental consent
  • for gov't work related purposes
  • on alcohol-selling premises with parental consent
Underage people who are at least 18 years old are allowed to consume light wine or beer with the consent and presence of their parent or legal guardian. Underage people who are at least 18 and serving in the US armed services "may lawfully possess and consume light wine or beer on military property where the consumption of light wine or beer is allowed." § 67-1-81; 67-3-54; 67-3-70
25. Missouri
  • for educational purposes
The law permits a student 18 years of age or older who is enrolled in a culinary course at an accredited college or university "to taste, but not consume or imbibe, any beer, ale, porter, wine, or other similar malt or fermented beverage as part of the required curriculum." 311.325; 312.010; 312.407
26. Montana
  • on private non alcohol-selling premises, with parental consent
  • for religious purposes
  • for medical purposes
Applies only to alcoholic beverages "provided in a nonintoxicating quantity." 16-6-305; 45-5-624
27. Nebraska
  • on private non alcohol-selling premises, with parental consent
  • on private, non alcohol-selling premises, without parental consent
  • for religious purposes
  • for medical purposes
Underage consumption of alcohol must be in the underage person's permanant place of residence. 53-168.06; 53-180.02
28. Nevada
  • on private non alcohol-selling premises, with parental consent
  • on private, non alcohol-selling premises, without parental consent
  • for religious purposes
  • for medical purposes
  • on alcohol-selling premises with parental consent
NRS 202.020
29. New Hampshire Underage consumption of alcohol is prohibited with no exceptions. Anyone underage "who is intoxicated by consumption of an alcoholic beverage, shall be guilty of a violation..." Underage possession of alcohol is prohibited, except when the under age person is working as a server, host, bartender, etc. on licensed, alcohol-selling premises. 179:10; 179:23
30. New Jersey
  • on private non alcohol-selling premises, with parental consent
  • on private, non alcohol-selling premises, without parental consent
  • for religious purposes
  • for medical purposes
  • for educational purposes
  • when reporting medical need due to underage drinking for another minor
Underage consumption of alcohol is not prohibited in private places. 2C:33-15; 2C:33-16; 2C:33-17
31. New Mexico
  • on private non alcohol-selling premises, with parental consent
  • for religious purposes
60-7B-1
32. New York
  • on private non alcohol-selling premises, with parental consent
  • for educational purposes
  • when reporting medical need due to underage drinking for another minor
Article 5 § 65-c 220-78
State Underage Consumption of Alcohol Is Allowed... Notes and Link to Law
33. North Carolina
  • for religious purposes
  • for medical purposes
  • for educational purposes
  • when reporting medical need due to underage drinking for another minor
§ 18B-103; § 18B-302 § 90-96.2; § 18B-302.2
34. North Dakota
  • for religious purposes
  • when reporting medical need due to underage drinking for another minor
Chapter 5-01
35. Ohio
  • on private non alcohol-selling premises, with parental consent
  • for religious purposes
  • for medical purposes
  • on alcohol-selling premises with parental consent
4301.69
36. Oklahoma
  • on private non alcohol-selling premises, with parental consent
  • on private, non alcohol-selling premises, without parental consent
  • when reporting medical need due to underage drinking for another minor
Underage consumption of alcohol is not prohibited in private places. "Although Oklahoma law contains no prohibition against underage consumption of alcoholic beverages generally, the state does prohibit consumption of 'low-point beer' (defined as containing not more than 3.2 percent ABW) by persons under twenty-one unless under the direct supervision of a parent or guardian. This exception does not allow persons under twenty-one to consume such beverages on premises licensed to dispense low-point beer. Okla. Stat. tit. 37, § 246." Source: "State Profile of Underage Drinking Laws," Alcohol Policy Information System (APIS) website (accessed May 21, 2010) §21-1215; 37-163.2; 37-246 37 O.S. 2011 Section 8
37. Oregon
  • on private non alcohol-selling premises, with parental consent
  • for religious purposes
  • for gov't work related purposes
Exception can also apply to work for a non-government employer "for the purpose of investigating possible violations by [other] employees... of laws prohibiting sales of alcoholic beverages to persons who are under the age of 21 years." 471.430
38. Pennsylvania
  • when reporting medical need due to underage drinking for another minor
18 Pa.C.S.A. § 6308
39. Rhode Island
  • for educational purposes
§ 3-8-10
40. South Carolina
  • on private non alcohol-selling premises, with parental consent
  • on private, non alcohol-selling premises, without parental consent
  • for religious purposes
  • for gov't work related purposes
  • for educational purposes
The law permits a student 18 years of age or older who is enrolled in an approved culinary course at an accredited college or university to "taste, but not consume or imbibe, any beer, ale, porter, wine, or other similar malt or fermented beverage as part of the required curriculum." "No provision of law prohibiting the use or possession of beer, wine, or alcoholic beverages by minors shall apply to any minor in the home of his parents or guardian or to any such beverage used for religious ceremonies or purposes so long as such beverage was legally purchased." Section 63-19-2440 – 63-19-2440
State Underage Consumption of Alcohol Is Allowed... Notes and Link to Law
41. South Dakota
  • for religious purposes
35-9-2
42. Tennesee
  • for religious purposes
1-3-113
43. Texas
  • on private non alcohol-selling premises, with parental consent
  • when reporting medical need due to underage drinking for another minor
  • on alcohol-selling premises with parental consent
Underage consumption of alcohol is allowed if it is in the visible presence of the minor's adult parent, guardian or spouse. Title 4 Chapter 106 S.B. No. 1331
44. Utah
  • for religious purposes
  • for medical purposes
  • when reporting medical need due to underage drinking for another minor
32A-12-209 SB 233
45. Vermont
  • for educational purposes
  • when reporting medical need due to underage drinking for another minor
Must be 18 or older and for culinary school. Title 7 Chapter 1 §2-3; Title 7 Chapter 21 §656 HB 65
46. Virginia
  • on private non alcohol-selling premises, with parental consent
§ 4.1-200; 4.1-304; 4.1-305
47. Washington
  • on private non alcohol-selling premises, with parental consent
  • for religious purposes
  • for medical purposes
  • when reporting medical need due to underage drinking for another minor
RCW 66.44.270
48. West Virginia Underage consumption of alcohol is prohibited with no exceptions. The code does not prohibit a person from furnishing alcohol to a person under the age of 21 if the recipient is a blood relative or relative by marriage, but it is illegal for the underage recipient to consume the alcohol. §60-3A-24
49. Wisconsin
  • on private non alcohol-selling premises, with parental consent
  • for religious purposes
  • for medical purposes
  • on alcohol-selling premises with parental consent
Underage consumption of alcohol is allowed if accompanied by parent or legal guardian. 125.02; 125.07
50. Wyoming
  • on private non alcohol-selling premises, with parental consent
  • for religious purposes
  • for medical purposes
  • on alcohol-selling premises with parental consent
Underage consumption of alcohol is not prohibited when in a private location or if it is done in the physical presence of a parent or legal guardian. 12-6-101
State Underage Consumption of Alcohol Is Allowed... Notes and Link to Law
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III. Explanations of the Eight Exceptions to the MLDA:
1. on private non alcohol-selling premises, with parental consent: Underage consumption of alcohol in some states is allowed on private, non alcohol-selling premises as long as the under age person has the consent and/or is accompanied by the physical presence of a parent or legal guardian. Private, non alcohol-selling premises include residential homes, private properties not open to the general public, etc. In some states underage consumption of alcohol is also allowed on private, non alcohol-selling premises when the under age person is accompanied by a spouse who is at least 21. Each state sets its own specific requirements for what is considered legal.

2. on private, non alcohol-selling premises, without parental consent: Underage consumption of alcohol in some states is not prohibited on private, non alcohol-selling premises, although it may be illegal for adults to provide alcohol to underage people in those states. Each state sets its own specific requirements for what is considered legal.

3. for religious purposes: Underage consumption of alcohol in some states is allowed for religious purposes. Some states require that the alcohol be provided by an official religious representative and/or limit the type of alcohol allowed. Each state sets its own specific requirements for what is considered legal.

4. for medical purposes: Underage consumption of alcohol in some states is allowed for medical purposes. Each state sets its own specific requirements for what is considered legal.

5. for government work related purposes: Underage consumption of alcohol in some states is not prohibited when it is related to government or law enforcement assignments. Such assignments can include governmental research into under age drinking, working under cover, etc. Each state sets its own specific requirements for what is considered legal.

6. for educational purposes: Underage consumption of alcohol in some states is allowed when it is for educational purposes related to culinary school. Each state sets its own specific requirements for what is considered legal.

7. when reporting medical need due to under age drinking for another minor: In some states, a minor will not be penalized for consuming alcohol if he/she is discovered to have been drinking alcohol through his/her reporting a medical emergency for another under age drinker. Each state sets its own specific requirements for what is considered legal.

8. on alcohol-selling premises, with parental approval: In some states, underage consumption of alcohol is allowed on an alcohol-selling premise, such as a restaurant or a bar, if the alcohol is furnished to the minor by a legal guardian and if the minor is in the presence of his or her legal guardian.