Your child wants to have a group of friends over or throw a party at your home. There can be consequences if alcohol is consumed in the home by minors, but what about marijuana?
Increasingly, states are expanding social host law to include marijuana. These laws hold homeowners, parents, guardians, or landowners accountable for underage substance use on their property. Adults can be held responsible even if they don’t provide alcohol or marijuana to minors or are unaware that these substances are being used in their homes.
Fines, jail time and more
Here are a few examples of actions cities and states have taken concerning marijuana:
- Great Falls, Montana revised their social host law to include marijuana with fines. Fines for ranging from $250 to $500. Adults who violate the law may also face jail time.
- Social hosts in towns in California like Escondido, San Marcos, Chula Vista and Santee can face up to 6 months in jail and a fine of $1000 for serving anyone under the age of 21 alcohol or marijuana. Additionally, the person who hosted the party may be required to pay any expenses incurred by law enforcement. An adult may also be responsible if anyone gets hurt. This means they may have to cover medical or hospital bills and the value of lost or damaged property. They may also have to pay for any damages related to pain and suffering.
- Connecticut’s law states that it may be a crime for parents or other adults to allow anyone under the age of 21 to possess or use marijuana on their property.
As legalization spreads across the country more cities and states are debating this issue. It’s best to check your city and/or state social host law to understand what applies to you.
What actions can parents and other caregivers take?
There are several actions you can take to protect yourself and your child:
- Establish ground rules within your household where it is understood by all members (including adult children) that underage youth may not use nicotine, alcohol, marijuana, or other substances.
- Learn about your state’s marijuana laws and trends in youth use.
- Talk with your teen about marijuana and try to understand their point of view and/or motivation to use. Lay out your expectations, rules and consequences in clear terms.
- Be at home when your teen has a party and check in often. Refreshing food and drinks are a good way to see what is going on.
- If your child attends a party or a gathering where marijuana is being used, let them know that they will not face punishment if they call to be picked up. Consider role-playing what your child might say to help them avoid substance use without feeling shame or pressure from their peers.
- If you are going to be away for an evening or overnight, ask a neighbor, relative or another trusted adult to check in on your teen. If that’s not possible, consider having your teen spend the night in a home where there is adult supervision.
- Reach out to their friends’ parents and create a network in which social hosting is unacceptable. Like minded adults will agree to supervise substance-free gatherings of teens.
Be prepared to hear complaints such as “You’re too strict. Other parents allow it”, “Why are you making such a big deal out of it? Everyone knows marijuana is harmless and it’s safer than drinking”. Let your child know that you aren’t trying to control them or make them miserable, but that you are only concerned for their health and safety. And, while there may be some known “party houses” in your community where the adults buy substances for teens or look the other, you’re likely to find that most adults agree with your stance.