Will Social Host rules curb underage drinking?

With the 2019-20 school year underway, parents and guardians in Pine County now face a new level of legal responsibility in light of the county’s Social Host Ordinance.

The Pine County Social Host Ordinance states that it is prohibited for any person hosting an event or gathering where alcohol, marijuana or other controlled substances are present and being possessed or consumed by persons under 21 years of age within Pine County, even if that takes place within a private residence.

The ordinance makes any adults hosting an event where drinking or drug use occurs by persons under the age of 21 guilty of a misdemeanor and criminally responsible for the actions of the underaged persons.

The adult hosts are criminally responsible regardless of whether or not they supplied the alcohol, marijuana or other controlled substances.

The Pine County Board of Commissioners approved the ordinance on April 2, and hope that it will protect kids and save lives in the new school year.

Pine County Attorney Reese Frederickson said it is still early days for the social host ordinance.

“We really haven’t seen any results so far,” Frederickson said. “I think as we get through later in the year you’re going to see more.”

He said that he believed enforcement would be ramping up with the start of the school year.

“Over the summer, the chief deputy has done a great job of talking to law enforcement, making sure their officers are aware that this too is now available,” Frederickson said. “So I suspect that [enforcement is ] going to increase.”

Pine County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Paul Widenstrom said he has not received many calls related to the ordinance yet.

“I want to say that I saw a citation come through after the ordinance was passed,” Widenstrom said. “I know that the Chemical Health Coalition group did a number of events over the summer. They were helping spread the word about it. I think it’s still fairly new to people and they’re still trying to figure it out.”

In putting together the ordinance, Frederickson partnered with the Pine County Chemical Health Coalition, whose goal is to deter property owners from allowing minors to consume alcohol and other controlled substances.

The writers of the ordinance hope it will prevent injuries related to overdoses on alcohol and controlled substances, as well as alcohol/drug related traffic crashes. The ordinance is also meant to keep underaged users from getting access to potentially addicting substances.

“Even though giving or furnishing alcohol, marijuana or other controlled substances to an underage person is a crime, it is difficult to prove, and an ordinance is necessary to help further combat underage consumption,” the ordinance states.

“One of the things I had to be educated about is – it doesn’t apply to cities, like Pine City, Hinckley, Sandstone,” Widenstrom noted. “If they wanted a social host ordinance they would have to pass one of their own. So it only applies to the township areas. So if Pine City wanted a social host ordinance they would have to pass one of their own within their city limits.”

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