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37 states have laws that allow underage drinking -- and it may soon be 38

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37 states have laws that allow underage drinking -- and it may soon be 38

WATCH  |  Here are some of the lesser-known drinking laws across the country.

Illinois lawmakers recently proposed a bill that would allow people as young as 18 to drink wine or beer at restaurants with a parent's permission. 

Hard liquor, however, would still be prohibited. 

Although this bill may be a surprise to some, 10 states -- Connecticut, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nevada, Ohio, Texas, Wisconsin and Wyoming -- already have this law. 

The legal drinking age in the United States is 21, but at least 37 states have exceptions in their drinking laws that allow underage people to drink with family members.

But, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, these exceptions vary and can be incredibly complex. Some states have exceptions for when minors can consume alcohol, while others have exceptions for when they can possess it. 

Underage Drinking in the United States Over Time
Underage Drinking

Then, of course, there are states like Arkansas, which don't have exceptions in their law for minors but do have exceptions for parents, The Washington Post reports. That, then raises the question: If a parent gives their child alcohol, does that mean the child is breaking the law and the parent isn't?  

There are a few other legal loopholes beyond those that allow minors to drink at home with family members. 

The nonprofit, nonpartisan website procon.org notes that 26 states allow minors to consume alcohol for religious purposes, while 16 states make an exception for medical purposes. The organization notes that five states -- Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, New Hampshire and West Virginia -- have no exceptions to allow for underage alcohol consumption.  The complexity and inconsistency of these laws make understanding them, and therefore not breaking them, downright confusing.  So be sure to check the laws in your state, and as always, drink responsibly.

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