Marin social host teen drinking law toughened to include pills, pot

 

County officials intend to add use or possession of pills, pot and other controlled substances to a social host ordinance initially designed to crack down on teen drinking parties.

The Board of Supervisors tentatively endorsed the move Tuesday and set a public hearing for 10:30 a.m. next Tuesday.

The law imposing fines on parents of teens who hold drinking parties at home has worked and “this seeks to extend that,” said Supervisor Damon Connolly, who sought to broaden the law.

“This is one of a series of actions we are taking to address a serious problem,” Supervisor Steve Kinsey said.

Under the new program — which would apply only to unincorporated areas of the county — parents of any juvenile hosting a party at home could be fined if youths were found under the influence of or in possession of liquor, marijuana, prescription pills and similar controlled substances.

Juveniles who are busted would face community service at a “restorative justice program” such as the county’s youth drug court.

The social host law, approved by the county to curb teen drinking parties that are often held at home when parents are away, has resulted in 48 citations since Jan. 1, 2007. Some 23 unincorporated area violators paid $750 fines, 22 did community service, and three agreed to a combination of community service hours and payment, according to Assistant County Counsel Jack Govi.

The law reads: “No person shall knowingly suffer, permit or host a gathering at his or her place of residence or other private property, place or premises, or host a gathering at a public place under his or her control where two or more persons under age 21 are present, where the gathering is loud or unruly and either alcoholic beverages are in the possession of, being consumed by, or served to any underage person, or controlled substances are served to, ingested by or in the possession of underage persons.”

The law defines controlled substance as a substance regulated under the state Controlled Substances Act. It does not apply to substances for which a person has a valid prescription “or in the case of medical cannabis, a recommendation for medical marijuana from an approved provider, or a state … medical marijuana ID card.”

The social host ordinance holds adults responsible for underage alcohol and controlled substance use in their households whether or not they are present.

Adding in a requirement that juveniles involved attend a restorative justice program “will ensure that the underage violator truly learns from the experience as opposed to their parents simply paying a fine,” Govi observed.

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The YMCA Marin County Youth Court is a restorative justice program involving young offenders between ages 10 and 17 who have their cases heard in a courtroom with peers serving as prosecuting and defense attorneys, court clerks, bailiffs and jurors. A jury of young people determines sentences.

The county Board of Supervisors — and then city councils across Marin — began approving social host laws after Alex “Bubba” Hunt Sampolski, 19, and Scott Raymond Van Hootegem, 18, were killed when they crashed into a tree off Indian Valley Road on their way back from a party at which they consumed alcohol in 2005.

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