LANCASTER — Representatives from the Antelope Valley Marijuana Alcohol and Pharmaceutical Prevention Coalition asked members of the Lancaster Criminal Justice Commission on Wednesday to consider recommending the addition of marijuana to the city’s social host ordinance.
The Nuisance Gatherings and Social Host Accountability ordinance, passed in 2015, holds anybody who provides a space where underage drinking takes place accountable for the underage drinking as well as any unruly conduct that may occur at the location. The ordinance provides for an administration citation with a penalty of $500 for the first citation, followed by a $1,000 penalty for the second or any subsequent citation.
“We’re looking at adding the cannabis piece now knowing that Prop. 64 passed and cannabis use is legal for anybody over 21,” Ruth Morales, a health educator at Tarzana Treatment Center, said during a presentation to the commission. “It’s not legal for youth, so that’s why we’re looking into amending the current social host ordinance.”
Morales cited data from the 2016-17 California Healthy Kids survey, conducted through the Antelope Valley Union High School District, which showed that 27% of high school juniors do not believe there is any harm associated with smoking marijuana occasionally. In addition, 42% of high school juniors reported it would be easy to obtain marijuana if they wanted it. Another 13% of 11th graders indicated they smoked marijuana in the last 30 days.
“Obviously we know that youth are using,” Morales said.
To address their concerns Morales said the group is using a well-rounded approach that not only includes education for adults and youth, but also a change in policy to reduce access among youth.
According to Morales, 54% of youth admissions at Tarzana Treatment Center is for marijuana use for residential treatment. Youth comprise another 85% of the center’s outpatient treatment.
Tarzana Treatment Center’s Jessica Morales updated the commission on actions taken by Los Angeles County and Marin County supervisors regarding social host ordinances.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Feb. 26 voted to permanently enforce a social host ordinance — after a one-year pilot program — to hold parents responsible for parties with underage drinking or marijuana smoking in unincorporated areas of the Palos Verdes Peninsula.
In June 2017 Marin County supervisors amended the county’s social host ordinance to include prohibiting gatherings where alcohol, controlled substances, and marijuana are served to, ingested by, or in possession of underage persons. After the passage of the county ordinance three cities in Marin County — San Rafael, Mill Valley and Novato — adopted similar ordinances.
Ventura County also has social host ordinances, passed in 2006 and 2007, that do not include marijuana but do apply countywide.
“There was a study done on Ventura County’s social host ordinance with youth and law enforcement that found that simple citations are easier and faster to prosecute because they require less of a standard of proof,” Jessica Morales said.
In addition, cases are processed more quickly outside of the criminal justice system through an administrative judge.
Health educator Stephen Updyke said the group advocates for local laws and policies to reduce access to marijuana, alcohol and other drugs.
“This then helps us to shift social norms away from acceptance of the use of these substances by the underage community toward a social norm that emphasizes safe, healthy youth community and can socialize about the need for substance use,” Updyke said.
Updyke said the AV Marijuana Alcohol and Pharmaceutical Prevention Coalition’s proposal to amend the social host ordinance to include marijuana would help the city in its goals as well.
Bryan Anguiano, field representative for Assemblyman Tom Lackey, read a letter of support from Lackey on behalf of the AV Marijuana Alcohol and Pharmaceutical Prevention Coalition and Tarzana Treatment Center’s goal to amend the city code to include marijuana and its derivative products to the social host ordinance.
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