Social Host Rule: What is it?

Following the 2020 November Election, Pendleton County passed a county-wide alcohol ordinance, making alcohol sales throughout the county legal. In compliance with Alcohol Beverage Control laws, this ordinance was passed into law on January 5th, 2021. The Champions Coalition for a Drug-Free Pendleton County supports responsible alcohol consumption, as well as preventing the use of alcohol for those under the legal drinking age.

The mission of the Champions Coalition is to prevent youth substance use. In addition, Champions also strives to educate the general public on current events and prevention awareness as it relates to alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. Within the passing of this new law in Pendleton County, lies a rule called, ‘Social Host Rule.’ The Social Host Rule holds adults (social hosts) responsible for underage drinking events on property they own, lease, or otherwise control.

Many adults believe it is safer for their teenager and friends to drink at home as long as they do not drive—which is a myth. It is now against the law to provide a place to do so for anyone under the age of 21 in Pendleton County. While current laws target those who supply the alcohol to minors, Social Host refers to anyone who provided the location where the underage drinking event occurred. According to the 2018 KIP survey of Pendleton County high school and middle school students, the most frequent alcohol source for our youth is through parents and other adults.

The Social Host Rule also gives law enforcement the authority to enforce civil or criminal penalties, and can be used as a tool to control parties where underage drinking occurs, and serves as a deterrent to adults hosting parties that allow underage drinking in the first place. This rule enforces the need to prevent underage drinking, and for adults to send a consistent message that underage drinking is illegal and dangerous.

The Social Host Rule solely exists to target and prevent youth alcohol consumption. Alcohol is the number one drug of choice for youth, and it is involved in the deaths of more teenagers than all other illicit drugs combined. In fact, youth who begin drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to become an alcoholic as an adult than those who begin at age 21.

There are many benefits to having a Social Host Rule, but the most important one is that it protects our youth and keeps our community safe. Parents and adults who adopt a zero-tolerance standard for underage drinking can reduce harmful alcohol use among our youth. It is important to understand the need to continue to send the message that our community does not support underage drinking.

Stephanie Schlueter, Coalition Chair

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