Marin IJ Editorial: Strengthening ‘social host’ law makes sense

The Marin Board of Supervisors are poised to broaden the scope of the local “social host” law in hopes of saving young lives.

The board, at its June 13 meeting, gave its 5-0 approval to amendments to the county’s 11-year-old law aimed at discouraging teen-drinking parties by levying costly fines on hosts, both teens and adults.

The amendments expand the law to cover underage marijuana use and extend the law’s reach to mobile parties, in limousines or buses.

Since the law was enacted in 2006, county sheriff’s deputies have issued 80 citations, with fines starting at $750.

Another amendment endorsed by the board enables offenders under 21 who are cited to be assigned to the county’s restorative justice program.

The county and Marin’s cities adopted their social host laws after the 2005 deaths of two Novato teenagers who lost their lives in a truck accident on Indian Valley Road after leaving a party where beer was served and hosted by an 18-year-old while her parents were away on vacation.

Two other passengers in the truck were injured.

The adoption of social host laws by the county and Marin cities has been an attempt to discourage parents and teens from hosting drinking parties.

Extending the law to limousines and tour buses follows a Central Marin 2016 police crackdown on a tour bus that could have turned into a rolling teen-drinking party if it had not been stopped by police as it was leaving the Larkspur Landing ferry parking lot. Thirty-three Marin teenagers were onboard, along with 30 containers of hard alcohol, a case of spiked lemonade, a jar of marijuana and a purse containing a mix of prescription drugs.

Marin prosecutor Lori Frugoli, who handled the case against the bus driver, correctly called the situation “a recipe for disaster.”

Backers of the law and proposed changes are hoping the county’s approval sets the stage for all Marin municipalities adopting a uniformed ordinance that helps promote both awareness and compliance.

Of course, a countywide law that helps send a message that can help save lives and discourage teen drinking.

The uniformed ordinance adopted by supervisors was promoted by the Marin Youth Commission, the Marin Youth Leadership Institute and Communities Mobilizing for Change on Alcohol.

Recent surveys that showed trends of alcohol abuse among Marin teens and reports of out-of -control teen-drinking parties have fueled calls for bolstering Marin’s social host law and their enforcement.

The goal of saving young people from deadly accidents or lives of alcohol abuse is good enough reason to improve the effectiveness of a local law.

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