County of Marin - News Releases - Social Host Ordinance

For Immediate Release
October 13, 2020

Campaign Addresses Youth Drinking and Drug Use

Marin Prevention Network to generate awareness of Social Host Ordinance

San Rafael, CA – The Marin Prevention Network is launching a Social Host Ordinance (SHO) awareness campaign and asking the Marin community to help by sharing the important messages with friends and family.

A closeup view of a party scene shows the hands of a young person touching plastic cups presumably with alcoholic beverages in them.Marin County is known for having high rates of underage drinking and drug use, leading to widespread implementation of Social Host Ordinances that hold adults responsible.
The reminder from the network – a community coalition that includes the Marin County Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) – comes at a critical time when youths are more isolated because of the COVID-19 sheltering order and online learning during the pandemic. Stressful times can lead to unhealthy decisions by both youths and adults.

While Marin is consistently ranked as the healthiest county in California by the Robert Wood Johnson County Health Rankings, it’s also known for having high rates of underage drinking and drug use. Through collaborative outreach, the goal of the SHO campaign is to educate the community and debunk common myths surrounding youth/young adult drinking and drug use. 

All cities and towns in Marin, as well as County of Marin, have adopted some form of Social Host Ordinance that holds adults responsible for underage use of alcohol and other controlled substances in their households whether the adults are present or not. The ordinance is designed to confront and mitigate the prevalent problem of underage drinking and drug use at private residences or rented facilities. The intent is to support parents and guardians in taking responsibility for what is happening in their home and to support neighbors in looking out for one another.

“Every year, our data shows that teen drinking and substance use rates are high,” said Matt Willis, Marin County Public Health Officer. “The only way to tackle this complex problem is to work together as a community, including with our law enforcement partners.”

Law enforcement officials can issue citations for civil fines and fees for such gatherings. However, restorative justice is a key component that allows for learning on part of both youths and adults as opposed to parents simply paying a fine. It can further promote youth leadership, get young people involved in creating positive change and will make them more aware of the consequences. 

The County’s SHO was first enacted in November 2006 to deter underage drinking. In recent years it has expanded to include cannabis and other controlled substances. The County of Marin’s expanded ordinance was adopted in 2017 and served as a model to be used and modified by other jurisdictions.

In Marin County, alcohol and marijuana are reported to be easily accessible and readily available, and they are more accessible in social settings. According to California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS) data (2017-18), almost 80% of 11th graders in Marin County reported that alcohol and marijuana were easy to access, and many reported accessing alcohol and drugs at parties (23%) or at a friend’s house (17%).

There is limited recognition and acknowledgement among many parents, families, school personnel, and other caregivers of the scope of and consequences related to substance abuse among youth: More than 85% of the parents and caregivers surveyed by the Marin HHS Parent Norms Survey did not believe that their high school student consumed alcohol in the previous month. However, according to self-report CHKS data, more than 40% of 11th graders and 20% of ninth graders reported drinking alcohol in the previous month.

The campaign, running mid-October through mid-November, is primarily through social media and works to debunk common myths such as “If I’m too strict with them now, they’ll go off the rails in college” and “I’d rather they drink here than somewhere else.” Social media will be developed in both adult and youth voices and shared by grassroots partners across the county including community-based organizations, local governments, law enforcement, educators, businesses, and others.

The Marin Prevention Network is a collaboration of community organizations and individuals seeking to change norms, policies, and laws that affect the availability, promotion, sale, and use of alcohol and other drugs.


Kathy Koblick
Public Health Division Director
Health and Human Services

20 N. San Pedro Drive
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-2979
Email: Kathy Koblick
Marin HHS website