The County of Marin first adopted a social host accountability ordinance in 2006 to help deter underage drinking, and now staff is proposing to add marijuana to the ordinance language plus further measures to reduce drug and alcohol use by minors.
If the ordinance amendment is adopted, party hosts would be liable and subject to fines even if the party location is a bus or limousine. Also, graduation from a restorative justice program would be mandated for all offenders under the age of 21.
The amendment received a first reading before the Marin County Board of Supervisors on June 6, and a merit hearing and subsequent Board vote is scheduled for 10 a.m. June 13.
The social host accountability ordinance holds adults responsible for underage use of alcohol and other controlled substances in their households whether or not the adults are present. The ordinance is designed to confront and mitigate the prevalent problem of underage drinking, drug use and loud or unruly gatherings at private residences or rented facilities.
Supported by more than a dozen local groups, the County strengthened its original social host accountability ordinance in February 2016 by adding controlled substances to the list of prohibitions. It also prohibited loud and unruly parties where controlled substances are served to, possessed by or ingested by people under the age of 21.
Marin has a national reputation as being one of the healthiest counties in the country, but also is known for as having an incredibly high rate of underage drinking and drug use.
“Parents want to know their kids are safe when they’re out with friends,” said Dr. Matt Willis, the County’s Public Health Officer. “Strengthening our social host ordinance sends an important signal that we all share responsibility for the safety of our kids. That’s especially important here in Marin, where our teen substance abuse and DUI rates are high. We’re fortunate our elected leaders and partners in law enforcement are taking a proactive approach to this public health problem.”
Law enforcement officials are allowed to issue citations for civil fines and fees against people responsible for such gatherings. Adults face a civil fine of $750, six hours of observation at a restorative justice hearing, and imposition of all of the costs of law enforcement’s response to the incident, and potential litigation from the families of people injured in the incident. Fines increase with additional violations.
“A restorative justice program helps the underage violator learn from the experience as opposed to their parents simply paying a fine,” Govi said. “I think it’s a good idea that adults are now going to face the required attendance at restorative justice program hearings. That makes this ordinance more effective.”
To date, the Marin County Sheriff’s Office has issued nearly 80 citations for violations in unincorporated Marin since the ordinance was adopted 11 years ago. Violators have paid fines, completed community service hours and participated in alcohol-related education.