Pay Attention to Social Host Law When Having Holiday Parties

It is a wonderful time of year. The time when our children come home from college to celebrate the holidays, spend time with their siblings, and see old friends. In town music fills the air, window displays are festive, and lamposts are lit with holiday cheer. 

During this festive month, your child may ask to have a group of friends over or maybe even throw a party at your home. It sounds like a great idea as it would give them a chance to reconnect with everyone they haven’t seen in such a long time. However, before you say yes there are a few things you should know to make sure you are an informed host.

Did you know that knowingly allowing anyone under the age of 21 to use alcohol, marijuana, or drugs, whether in your home or not, violates Suffolk County Law? The Social Host Law holds parents and adults over the age of 18 responsible for allowing anyone under the age of 21 to drink alcohol, consume marijuana, or engage in the use of illegal drugs at a party or gathering while under their supervision or on their property. Whether it is your home, your place of business, or a party you are hosting elsewhere, adults must take appropriate action if they suspect someone underage has been drinking alcohol, consuming marijuana, or using drugs. 

As informed parents, we also want to make sure we educate our children on how they can make responsible decisions. Make sure your children and their friends are aware of the Good Samaritan Law. The New York State 911 Good Samaritan Law allows people to call 911 without fear of arrest if they are having a drug or alcohol overdose that requires emergency medical care or if they witness someone overdosing.  Why should your family care about the Good Samaritan Law? Well, for one this law empowers you to save another person’s life. It protects everyone regardless of age who seeks medical help for themselves or anyone experiencing an alcohol or drug overdose.  It also protects the person who overdosed. 

Some families may think this information does not relate to them, their children, or their children’s friends.  However, the statistics show that many teens and young adults have been engaged in underage drinking, marijuana consumption, and drug use.  The data below is from the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS):

  • More than 29% of high school students consumed alcohol
  • Almost 14% engaged in binge drinking
  • About 37 of every 100 high school students reported current use of a tobacco product, mainly driven by e-cigarette use
  • Approximately 22% reported current marijuana use
  • 7% reported current prescription opioid misuse

Tips to protect yourself and your child:

  1. Know and understand the Social Host and Good Samaritan Law.
  2. Talk with your teen about alcohol, marijuana, and drugs and discuss the why behind trying. Try to understand their point of view and/or motivation to use. Listen to their concerns then express your expectations, ground rules, and consequences in clear terms. 
  3. Have open communication where teens and young adults can talk openly. If your child attends a party where alcohol, marijuana, or drugs may be used, let them know that it is ok if they call to be picked up. Role-play what your child might say or a code word when they call.  Give solid advice to help them avoid substance use without feeling pressure from their peers.
  4. Understand the law:  First offense: Any person who violates § 294-8  shall be guilty of an unclassified misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $500.  Second and subsequent offenses: Any person who violates § 294-8  shall be guilty of an unclassified misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed $1,000, a term of imprisonment not to exceed one year, or both.

The holidays are a busy and fun time, but they are also a time of risk for young people. Whatever your plans this season, it is important not to forget about keeping our children and young people safe.  By working together we can ensure a safe holiday season for everyone in our community. 

Sharon Richmond is a member of the Town of Huntington Opioid and Addiction Task Force and the Northport-East Northport Drug and Alcohol Task Force

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