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Alcohol
Legal Status
by Erowid
U.S. FEDERAL LAW #
Caution :   All legal information should be verified through other sources. [see below]
U.S. FEDERAL LEGAL SUMMARY
Alcohol
REGULATED
Yes
STATUS
Over-The-Counter
Age Restricted
SCHEDULE
Un-Scheduled
In the United States, alcohol sales are largely regulated at the state level. Although alcohol is available over-the-counter :

  • All state laws restrict alcohol purchase to those who are 21 years old or older.
  • There is no federal law prohibiting consumption of alcohol by minors, and state laws vary.
  • It is legal to brew beer and ferment wine for personal consumption without a license.
  • In order to sell beer or wine, a license is required.
  • It is federally illegal to distill hard alcohol (even for personal consumption) without a license.
  • It is illegal in all states to operate vehicles with a blood alcohol content of 0.08%; however, levels lower than 0.08% are illegal in some states and/or some situations: BAC limits of 0.01% to 0.05% are in place in some states for drivers under 21 years old; on the federal level, for drivers operating a vehicle requiring a commercial driver's license the BAC limit is 0.04%; for drivers of common carriers (such as buses), the BAC limit is 0.01%.


Spirits #
(from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms)

"You cannot produce spirits for beverage purposes without paying taxes and without prior approval of paperwork to operate a distilled spirits plant. [See 26 U.S.C. 5601 & 5602 for some of the criminal penalties.] There are numerous requirements that must be met that make it impractical to produce spirits for personal or beverage use. Some of these requirements are paying special tax, filing an extensive application, filing a bond, providing adequate equipment to measure spirits, providing suitable tanks and pipelines, providing a separate building (other than a dwelling) and maintaining detailed records, and filing reports. All of these requirements are listed in 27 CFR Part 19.

Spirits may be produced for nonbeverage purposes for fuel use only without payment of tax, but you also must file an application, receive ATF's approval, and follow requirements, such as construction, use, records and reports."

U.S. STATE LAW #
Hours of sale, locations of sale, and age restrictions related to serving, consuming, and driving, are just a few of the areas where alcohol laws vary from state to state. Underage consumption of alcohol is specifically illegal in 15 states and the District of Columbia, while 18 states have exceptions under which minors can legally drink alcohol (often requiring the presence of a parent or legal guardian).

INTERNATIONAL LAW #
For information about the Minimum Drinking Age or Minimum Purchase Age for alcohol throughout the world, we recommend the following two sites:
For additional notes on alcohol law and enforcement, see below.
Australia #
Illegal to sell any alcohol containing beverages to anyone under 18. (thanks ATB)
Belgium #
Though the drinking age in Belgium is 16 for beer/wine and 18 for liquor, practically, there is little restriction on purchase by age. (thanks JR)
Brazil #
Though the drinking age in Brazil is 18, enforcement is reportedly very lax. (thanks H)
Canada #
The laws respecting alcohol are determined by the province or territory not by the federal government. In the North West Territories, alcohol use is restricted by the municipality not by the NWT government. Communities in the NWT have the right to ban alcohol completely if the local government desires. Legal drinking age of 19 in Ontario are a draw for US citizens 19 & 20 years old. (thanks S, C, DA90) Alberta 18, Manitoba 18, Quebec 18, 19 in other provinces. Alcohol and Driving: "As of May 1, 2009, if you're caught driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) from 0.05 to 0.08 (known as the "warn range"), the police can immediately suspend your licence up to three days for a first occurrence, seven days for a second occurrence and 30 days for a third or subsequent occurrence." See Ontario Ministry of Transportation. (last updated Apr 22 2013)
Cyprus #
We have been told that the drinking age is 17, and that one must be 16 to enter clubs where alcohol is served. The laws are reportedly widely ignored and underage people can often go into bars and be served. (unconfirmed) (thanks D)
Denmark #
Alcohol above 1.2% may not be sold to those under 16. Must be 18 to buy alcohol in a bar/restaurant.
Dominican Republic #
The legal drinking age in the Dominican Republic is 18. We received an unconfirmed report that ID is seldom required for purchase.
Finland #
Brewing of beer and fermenting wine for personal consumption is legal, but not if you intend to sell the product. Production of hard liquour by distilling is prohibited even for personal consumption. Drinks containing 4.7 % by volume or less of alcohol are sold in grocery stores, kiosks etc., while beverages with higher levels of alcohol are sold only in regulated liquor shops. Possession of alcohol by minors is well tolerated.
France #
Practically, little restriction on purchase by age.
Germany (Deutschland)#
Beer, Wine, and lower alcohol beverages are available in vending machines, making age restriction difficult, though they are required to be located at commercial and supervised locations or that the machines confirm age through the use of a bank card. Legal age for purchasing beer and wine is 16 and 18 years old for distilled alcohol-containing beverages. (unconfirmed) (thanks jt, PM) (last updated Dec 7 2009)
Hungary #
The legal drinking age is 18, but according to visitors, the law is widely ignored. Small stores sell alcohol without checking ID, but large large and corporate vendors always ask for age verifiying identification. (thanks z) (last updated Feb 12 2010)
Iran #
Alcohol ingestion is strictly illegal under Islamic Religious Law in Iran and those caught can be whipped, fined, or jailed. However, the WHO reports: "Religious minorities can buy alcoholic beverages from very few specifically licensed shops owned by shopkeepers of the same minority." An Erowid reader describes the law this way: "It is usually illegal to buy or sell alcohol in Iran, but there are some exceptions. Christians (Armenians), Jews, and some other minorities are allowed to sell alcoholic beverages. These minorities are also only supposed to sell alcohol to members of their own minority, but they don't really ask--or even care--about what your background is. A lot of non-minority Iranians drink, but they do it secretly." See WHO's Alcohol Policy PDF. (thanks K,S) (last updated Oct 6 2009)
Israel #
Legal drinking age is 18, but it is rarely enforced, 'carding' is very uncommon. Hard alcohol can be purchased at any food store. (unconfirmed) (thanks MD)
Italy #
Practically, little restriction on purchase by age. (thanks SK)
Japan #
Legal age is 20 for purchase, available in vending machines, making age restriction difficult. (unconfirmed) (thanks N)
Latvia #
Legal age is 18 for purchase, no age limit for drinking.
Mexico #
While the legal age for drinking is 18, we have received several reports that the age limit is commonly disregarded by vendors and law enforcement.
Netherlands #
Legal age is 16 to purchase beer, wine, and distilled beverages with less than 15% alcohol, and 18 for spirits. (thanks D)
Norway #
Packaged distilled liquors sold only in liquor stores, while beer is sold in a variety of stores. Beverages with less than 22% alcohol are legal to sell to persons 18 and older, but those with more than 22% alcohol may only be sold to those 20 or older. (thanks Y, O)
Peru #
Drinking age officially 18, although it can be purchased by those under 18 easily except at large supermarkets and fancy bars. (thanks DB)
Poland #
18 or over legal, but widely sold to younger people. (unconfirmed) (thanks RaN)
Romania #
18 or over legal to purchase, but We have been told that the law is "universally ignored in cities and rural areas. It is not illegal to possess alcohol or be drunk under age. Alcohol is sold everywhere from gas stations to malls and hotels. Romanians distill moonshine that is 195 proof and sold by vendors on the streets. There is a sap-based alcohol sold at some restaraunts. Romania has strict drunk driving laws." (unconfirmed) (thanks BB)
Serbia #
Must be 18 or older to buy alcohol, but law is widely ignored. (thanks A)
South Africa #
We have been told that one must be 18 or over to purchase alcohol, including beer and wine. The legal limit for driving is 0.05% BAC. Sales are not allowed without a licence, but shebeens (illegal bars) abound in the townships, and are now getting official recognition through legislation. Licensing is determined by individual provinces. In Gauteng shops can sell alcohol on Sundays, which is banned in most other provinces. (unconfirmed) (thanks DMS)
Spain #
Widely available in vending machines. (thanks MB)
Sweden #
Rigorous checking of age. Beverages over 3.5% alcohol are sold only in special liquor stores called Systembolaget which have an age restriction of 20. Drinking age in bars is 18. (unconfirmed) (thanks G, M)
Switzerland #
Beer and wine 16 and over, spirits 18 and over. We are told that alcoholic drinks must be sold so that they are clearly distinguishable from non-alcoholic drinks. It's illegal to sell beer, wine and cider to teenager under 16. It's illegal to sell spirits (e.g. liquor), aperitifs (e.g. martini) and 'alcopops' (e.g. smirnoff ice) to teenager under 18. It is allowed to drink and show the bottle in public. (thanks VF)
Thailand #
One visitor reports that "Beer is available everywhere, also for minors, also brandy and rice wine, with no real control based on age. During some public holidays the sale of alcohol of all kind is prohibited. Drunk driving is prohibited, but enforcement is uncommon, despite a high toll." (unconfirmed) (thanks aa) (last updated Aug 17, 2012)
Turkey #
Laws have reportedly been changing between 2008 and 2010, with more restrictions added. The previous drinking age was as low as 12, but one visitor says it is 16 as of July 2010. Other resources state the drinking age is 18. See New restrictive regulation on alcohol (2008). (unconfirmed) (thanks bp) (last updated July 24 2010)
U.K. #
A new Alcohol Licensing Act came into effect in January 2005. For more details, see U.K. Alcohol Age Limits.
If you have information about the legal status of this substance in any other country, please let us know.

CAUTION & DISCLAIMER #
Erowid legal information is a summary of data gathered from site visitors, government documents, websites, and other resources. We are not lawyers and can not guarantee the accuracy of the information provided here. We do our best to keep this information correct and up-to-date, but laws are complex and constantly changing. Laws may also vary from one jurisdiction to another (county, state, country, etc)...this list is not comprehensive.