Some voters in Western Mass. will vote on whether to lower drinking age

Should the drinking age be 19?

Voters in part of Hampshire County won’t just decide whether to legalize marijuana when they cast their ballots Tuesday: They’ll also vote on the drinking age.

Ballot Question No. 6 in Hampshire County’s Third District — Amherst, Pelham, and about half of Granby — asks voters whether their representative should vote for legislation that would lower the drinking age to 19 from 21.

The question reads in full:

“Shall the state representative from this district be instructed to vote in favor of legislation that lowers the drinking age to age 19 for wines and malt beverages and maintains the drinking age at 21 for all other alcoholic beverages?”


The question is nonbinding, so it won’t have a legal effect like the statewide referendums on charter schools, the confinement of animals, or marijuana use.

“It’s what is also sometimes known as an advisory question,” said Amherst Town Clerk Sandra Burgess. “What it’s supposed to do is send a message to their legislator. Nobody would be forced to do anything.”

Matthew Malone, a Haverhill native who lives in Washington, D.C., said he got the question on the ballot by gathering the 200 required signatures.

“It’s discriminatory against legal adults,” said Malone, who has worked with groups like the National Youth Rights Association and advocated for similar measures in Vermont in 2005. “I hope the people become more aware that it actually is age discrimination, just like [restrictions for] renting a car or staying in a hotel.”

Malone said he went to this district because it’s “very liberal” and there are a lot of college students in Amherst.

State Representative Ellen Story, who represents the district until January, said she thinks it’s a terrible idea.

“I voted yesterday and I voted ‘no,’ and I would encourage other people to vote ‘no,’ ” said Story. “I would doubt that anyone would support a bill like this. It’s not in the interest of public health.”


Story did not seek reelection.

Solomon Goldstein-Rose, a Democrat, is running unopposed for her seat. He said he has no position on the question.

“I’m interested to see what people vote on it,” said Goldstein-Rose, a 22-year-old Amherst native. He said he doesn’t plan to vote on the question because it’s supposed to advise him, but he said he doesn’t anticipate it will garner much support.

“I expect it will be defeated rather overwhelmingly,’’ he said.

Dylan McGuinness can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @DylMcGuinness.