Proposed Social Hosting Ordinance
Yesterday the Public Safety and health Committee approved a Social Hosting Ordinance I have been working on. This has gotten a good deal of interest and I thought it might be useful to provide some background, share some research and answer some questions here.
The new ordinance would make it illegal for a person to host an event or gathering where alcohol or alcoholic beverages are present, when the person knows or has reason to know that an underage person will or does consume alcohol or possess alcohol with the intent to consume it.
If this ordinance passes, hosting a gathering where underage drinking occurs will be a misdemeanor crime. If convicted, consequences can range from being referred to a restorative justice program all the way up to 90 days in jails and fines up to $1,000. Other crimes at this level include:
- Use or possession of drug paraphernalia in a public place
- Operation of a rental dwelling without a license
- Loitering with intent to solicit for the purposes of prostitution, illegal narcotic sale, distribution, - purchase or possession, or any other act prohibited by law
- Giving false information to the police
- Trespassing on private property used for retail sales
- Obstructing, any fire lane
- Public urination
- Consumption of alcohol by a person under the age of 21.
- Possession of alcohol by a person under the age of 21.
There are several reason why I support passing the ordinance.
1. Much of the underage drinking, including much of the excessive or “binge” drinking that happens in Minneapolis, appears to occur at social gatherings.
Last year the City’s Public Health Advisory Committee identified binge drinking as a serious health concern in a report to the City Council. After gathering additional information it became clear that extreme excessive drinking in homes and at social gatherings was much more common that in clubs or bars and an effort to better regulate drink specials and drinking games in bars was abandoned.
This appears to be the case nationally as well. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health (a survey of over 62,000 people aged 12-20), 53.3 percent of current alcohol users drank at someone else’s home the last time they drank and 30.3 percent drank in their own home. Less than 20% drank out doors or in a bar or club.
In 2009, St. Paul adopted a Social Hosting ordinance. There have been reports that gatherings in Minneapolis that included underage drinking have increased. Residents in the Second Ward expressed a desire to see Minneapolis enact similar legislation. As of February 1, 2010 39 other city or counties have enacted similar ordinances.
2. There are clear and undeniable health and safety risks associated with underage drinking.
According to the National Institute of Health, each year in the United States of America approximately 5,000 young people under the age of 21 die as a result of underage drinking. This includes about 1,900 deaths from motor vehicle crashes, 1,600 as a result of homicides, and 300 from suicide. There are also hundreds of deaths from other injuries such as falls, burns and drowning. Additionally, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that in 2005 there were more than 145,000 emergency room visits by youth 12 to 20 years of age for injuries and other conditions linked to alcohol.
In recent high profile deaths in Minnesota in the last 5 years alcohol has been sighted as a contributing factor. Examples include:
There has been a number of high profile instances in Minnesota in the last 5 years that demonstrate the risks involved in under age drinking. Social gatherings we clearly involved in most, if not all, of these tragic examples.
- In September 2005, Patrick Kycia, a 19-year-old sophomore at Minnesota State University-Moorhead, disappeared after he was seen at a party at the Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity house. His body was found five days later in the Red River, with a blood-alcohol content of .174, more than twice the legal limit for drinking and driving in Minnesota. Witnesses said Kycia drank a lot of whiskey at a Phi Sigma Kappa house party. ‘Guys just kept giving him shots,’ said one person who was at the party.
- In 2006, David Schmitt (then under 21) was found dead in a pond near a keg party in rural Cologne, MN
- January 2006, Germaine Vigeant, 20, had been drinking and fell through an opening in an abandoned grain elevator and died.
- In February, 2007 University of MN junior Rebecca Yacob, 21, was killed in a car wreck by a 19 year old drunk driver.
- In February, 2007, Sean Humphrey was found lying intoxicated and unconscious, partially frozen to the pavement of Geske Road near Chaska MN. Humphrey, 19, who had been at a Chaska party earlier in the evening, was brought to Hennepin County Medical Center, where he later died.
- In the spring of 2007 Kyle Sharbonno, a first-year U of M student, attended a party and later fell off the Oak Street parking ramp and died. The party hosts reported purchasing several kegs of beer for the party for a beer pong tournament that Sharbonno participated in.
- In November 2007, University student Edward Bump, 19, was found dead in his apartment. He died from asphyxiation from hanging, which appeared to be self-inflicted. Police stated alcohol appeared to have been involved in Bump's death, In January 08, 2008, Brian W. Threet, 20, was found dead in his St. Cloud apartment of Alcohol Overdose.
- In May, 2008, Andrew I. Anderson, 16, fell and died after a night of drinking on with a group of friends. He had a blood-alcohol level of 0.353 percent, more than four times the legal limit for an adult to drive.
- In November 2009, Bee Vue, 15, was taken home by friends early after a drinking party. The next morning he was found unresponsive and pronounced dead.
- January, 2010, Jared Gilbertson, 15, was found unconscious in a snow bank, long after the friends Jared was drinking with dropped him off at his northern Minnesota home. Jared had been drinking at a party with classmates at a nearby home. He later died. One parent and an older sibling were home at the time.
The National Institute of Health also found that “motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among youth age 15 – 20. Adolescents already are at increased risk through their relative lack of driving experience, and drivers younger that 21 are more susceptible than older drivers to the alcohol-induced impairment of driving skills. The rate of fatal crashes among alcohol-involved drivers between 16 to 20 years old is more than twice the rate for alcohol –involved drivers 21 and older.”
From a recent review of research they also report, “Alcohol use interacts with conditions such as depression and stress to contribute to suicide, the third leading cause of death among people between the ages of 14 and 25. In one study 37 percent of 8th grade females who drank heavily reported attempting suicide compared to 11 percent who did not drink.”
Sexual assault is also a serious health risk associated with alcohol. The Institute reports, “Sexual assault, including rape, occurs more commonly among women in late adolescence and early adulthood, usually within the context of a date. Research suggests that alcohol used by the offender, the victim or both, increases the likelihood of sexual assault.” One study (Brown and Tapert 2004) found that “on college campuses 95 percent of all violent crime and 90 percent of college rapes involve the use of alcohol by the assailant, victim or both.”
3. There is a loophole in the way we regulate alcohol and its use by underage individuals.
Governments at various levels have done a thorough job of making it clear that retail businesses and bars cannot serve to underage people. We also have clear laws making it illegal for someone underage to consume alcohol in most settings. These laws will continue to be enforced even if this new laws passes.
One law, MN Statute 340A.503, subdivision 2, makes it unlawful for any persons to provide alcohol to a person under age 21, but the courts have ruled that hosting a party at a home does not fall within the meaning of “providing or furnishing alcohol to minors.” These court rulings and subsequent loophole form the basis of the need for Social Hosting Ordinances such as that proposed in Minneapolis.
When police show up to parties, they can’t charge people who clearly provided the venue for the drinking, and possible the alcohol as well, to underage persons because they can’t prove that the person actually put the alcohol into those persons’ hands.
Social Hosting Ordinances already exist in many municipalities in Minnesota and are supported by many.
The following localities have passed Social Hosting ordinances in Minnesota
Kandiyohi Co., passed 8/7/2007
South St. Paul, 6/8/2008
Maple Grove, Sept. 08
Apple Valley, 11/6/2008
Fergus Falls, 11/17/2008
Red Wing, 12/7/2008
Albert Lea, 12/8/2008
Prior Lake, 12/15/2008
Crystal, Late 2008
Scott County, 6/2/2009
West St. Paul, 6/22/2009
New Prague, 7/20/2009
Belle Plaine, 8/17/2009
St. Paul, 10/14/2009
Elk River, 11/9/2009
Mower County, 12/29/2009
Wilkin County, 1/19/2010
We have shared the ordinance with the people of Ward 2 widely, including with neighborhoods near the University, with the University of Minnesota, with the Minnesota Student Association at the U and with the MN Multi Housing Association (MHA). The student association voted down a resolution of support. We have letters of support from the University, and the Southeast Como neighborhood association and others. MHA has also indicated that they find the language acceptable.
Drug Abuse Warning Network, 2005: National Estimates of Drug-Related Emergency Department Visits. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Office of Applied Studies. DAWN Series D-29, DHHS Publication No. (SMA) 07-4256; 2007. Available at http://dawninfo.samhsa.gov/pubs/edpubs/default.asp.
S.A. Brown and S. F. Tapert, "Health Consequences of Adolescent Alcohol Use," in Reducing Underage Drinking: A Collective Responsibility, Background Papers (Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2004).