Thurston County Commissioners will conduct a public hearing Tuesday on a new ordinance that would implement civil penalties — a fine of as much as $250 — for people who host parties where minors are drinking alcohol or using marijuana.
The “social host” ordinance would add new language and amend Title 10 of Thurston County Code.
“I’m really excited about this ordinance,” said Bud Blake, chairman of the three-member commission. “It is a great way to begin the conversation about alcohol and marijuana use and how it can affect the youths in our community.”
The ordinance was drafted with the local nonprofit Together. It states that upon identification of an underage gathering where alcohol and marijuana are present or dispensed to minors, law enforcement can issue a $250 civil infraction to any or all responsible people.
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That includes property owners, according to county spokeswoman Meghan Porter.
“The basic change is it focuses on the location of the consumption and allows for a civil penalty, not the provider of the substances, which would be a criminal penalty,” she said. “The ordinance makes it illegal to provide an environment where underage drinking takes place, regardless of who provides the alcohol.”
Social host liability laws have been passed in communities all over the country. In Washington, a person who supplies liquor to a minor to consume on their premises can receive a fine of as much as $5,000 and one year in jail, and can be held liable if the minor is injured.
“However, in Washington, a social host is not liable for merely permitting a minor to consume, on the host’s premises, alcohol that the host did not furnish,” states the state Liquor and Cannabis Board’s web page on social hosting.
Meghan Sullivan, executive director of Together, said the nonprofit worked closely with the city of Rainier to adopt a similar policy in 2012. It is working with the city of Lacey to consider a social host ordinance as well.
“We are excited to see Thurston County working to implement this effective approach to prevent and reduce underage alcohol and marijuana use,” she said.
To view the draft ordinance, go to co.thurston.wa.us/legal-notices/legal-notice-20170201-public-hearing-title-10-amendment-proposed-ordinance.pdf.
If you go
The Thurston County Commissioners will hold a public hearing at 3 p.m. Tuesday on a proposed social host ordinance. It will be held in Building 1, Room 280 at the County Courthouse Complex, 2000 Lakeridge Drive SW, Olympia.