Social Host Expanded and Strengthened

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“Controlled Substance” Language adds Flexibility and Fills a Need

By: Jeffrey Meyers, ASAC Prevention Specialist

A recently passed amendment to Jones County’s Social Host Ordinance has expanded what was originally an underage drinking measure to now include other drugs of choice for youth, including marijuana and prescription drug medications. Originally put in place in 2011, the Social Host Ordinance prohibits any adult property owner from knowingly allowing underage drinking on their premises, a mechanism which has proven very useful for law enforcement officers wanting to not only hold youth responsible, but also the adults that enable and allow these illicit and dangerous activities to go on unchallenged. Now such accountability can be expanded to include other substances too often abuse by youth, a tool law enforcement feels will be beneficial.

Officially passing with unanimous approval from the Jones County Board of Supervisors in April, the amendment was a simple yet significant one for law enforcement. When first enacted in 2011, underage and binge drinking was a major concern in Jones County, which has fortunately dropped off due to the hard work of many community partners. Yet recent developments have made other substances more of an abuse concern for youth, including marijuana and also the nationwide epidemic of abused prescription medication. This new revision takes those drug trends in to account, adding language that now requires all adult persons in control of property to “take all reasonable steps to prevent the possession and consumption…of alcohol by those under the age of 21, and the possession and consumption of controlled substances…including any synthetic versions by any persons while on said property”. Simply put, if you are in control of a place where youth are gathering and reasonably are aware that alcohol, illegal drugs, or unauthorized prescription drug use is taking place, you are liable for a civil fine.

Often times, when youth abuse drugs or alcohol there are multiple substances at play. For instance underage drinking may, in some cases, also be accompanied by marijuana. Conversely there may be no alcohol use or marijuana use, but rather ill-gotten prescription drugs being abused by teens. Now law enforcement has the flexibility to deal with whatever may be present under one ordinance. With this new change, the Social Host ordinance can be used for any controlled substance, as defined by state code. This means that, should a new version of a drug come out, the ordinance won’t have to be continually updated, as it will automatically stay in step with state law.

Here in Jones County law enforcement has seen a tangible positive impact from the ordinance and many feel that such an expansion can only serve to continue this trend. As noted by Jones County Sheriff Greg Graver, “Since 2011 the Ordinance has been used on a number of occasions and we believe the law is working as intended. Law enforcement has noticed a decrease in the residences and properties where historically many parties had been held. We are seeing the law and the consequences associated with it, is changing behaviors when it comes to people who use to host these types of parties. Now with the trend of more prescription abuse it just made sense to adjust the language of the law for it to continue to make a positive impact in our communities”.

When it comes to the prevention of teen drug and alcohol use, ordinances like Social Host are one important step. Not only does it provide for a legal mechanism of accountability for youth and adults alike, it also sends a message that, as a community, Jones county stands for having a safe and healthy environment for its youth. This, in combination with education, positive encouragement and vigilance, will help to keep Jones County safe and healthy.