Students and members of West County Alcohol Marijuana & Prescription Drug Coalition met with councilmember Soheila Bana last week with the goal of creating a Social Host Ordinance to reduce underage drinking and drug use in Richmond.
A Social Host Ordinance (SHO) is a local law that holds adults responsible for alcohol, cannabis, or other drugs served to underage individuals on the adult’s property.
If passed, Richmond would join with other bay area cities, including Pittsburg, Orinda, Novato, and San Rafael, that have created similar ordinances aimed at reducing the consumption of drugs and alcohol, which is often present at house parties and other events attended by teens.
According to AMPD, the majority of children are exposed to drinking and drugs for the first time at social events.
Richmond councilmember Soheila Bana says she supports the idea and will put it on the consent calendar for approval.
"I think it's an excellent idea. As the mother of two children, I support the effort and the adding of responsibility to the adults," Bana said.
Richmond's SHO will apply to any group of persons assembled for a party, social occasion, or social activity.
A "Social Host" is defined as a those responsible for the party, gathering, or event and includes, the person(s) who owns, rents, leases, or otherwise has control of the premises where the party or event takes place, the person in charge of the premises, or the person who organized the event.
The social host ordinance does not make it against the law to furnish alcohol or
cannabis to individuals under the age of 21, both are already illegal in California.
Richmond's ordinance goes just a little further, also making it illegal to provide an environment where minors consume alcohol, cannabis, or other controlled substances, including prescription and illicit drugs.
According to a 2007 California Healthy Kids Survey, 41% of Contra Costa County 11th graders report drinking alcohol in the past 30 days, surpassing the state average of 37%.
The survey also states 79% of 11th graders also say that it is “very easy” or “fairly easy” to obtain alcohol.
A first-time offense could yield a 3-6 hours educational diversion course and an administrative fee for adults who have permitted the use of alcohol or drugs by youth on their property.
Nabila Sher, AMPD Coalition Coordinator, says the Richmond Police Department has been a great ally in working on the SHO.
"They were able to pull data on “Party Calls”(calls made to RPD when a party has become a nuisance or unruly) between January 2022-December 2022 there were a total of 452 calls for service due to a Party Call," Sher said.
Underage Drinking Contra Costa County, a survey taken in 2011, found children who learn about drug risks from their parents are up to 50% less likely to use alcohol.
Supporters of the Richmond ordinance hope it will send a community-wide message to adults that youth alcohol and drug use is unhealthy, unsafe, and unacceptable.
A study from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that children who start drinking before the age of 15 are 4 times more likely to develop alcohol problems than those who start after age 21.
The American Medical Association says that alcohol can damage two key brain areas: The prefrontal area is responsible for thinking, planning, good judgment, decision-making, and impulse control. Damage from alcohol during teen years can be long-term and irreversible, especially to the hippocampus, which is involved in learning and memory.
"Some people may think a SHO is not needed in Richmond, but I believe the data shows that it is needed. Even if a fourth of those calls included underage alcohol and substance use, that’s still a big number. We need to protect our youth," Sher said.