During the recent regular Riverbank City Council meeting, there was a first reading to amend Chapter 134: Prohibition Against Underage Drinking And Social Host Liability to include cannabis to the Riverbank Municipal Code of Ordinances. Donna M. Kenney, Planning and Building Manager gave the report on Tuesday night, Nov. 12, explaining why they are considering the change.
Kenney reported, “Minors often obtain, possess and consume alcoholic beverages and or cannabis at gatherings held on private property. They tend to get out of hand and the police are called and we are wanting to provide additional tools to the police. Persons responsible for these gatherings fail to take responsible steps to prevent this consumption and keep our children safe.”
The existing ordinance is for alcohol consumption by minors which holds the host responsible for underage drinking. The amendment to the ordinance being proposed is to add cannabis consumption by minors.
The background and analysis in the agenda states that the proposed amendment recognizes that, although different in many ways, the consumption of cannabis by minors presents some adverse effects on teens like the consumption of alcoholic beverages does. Alcohol consumption by minors has been documented to increase alcohol abuse, physical altercations, violent crimes including rape and other sexual offenses, accidental injuries, neighborhood vandalism, and excessive noise disturbances. On the other hand, recreational cannabis use by minors may cause harm to the minors themselves. It increases their amount of cannabis use, it detrimentally affects the mental and physical health of minors, and it increases the rates of driving under the influence. Social hosts must take reasonable steps to keep underage partiers away from both alcohol and cannabis products. This ordinance is about adults being adults and looking out for minors. The penalties described in the ordinance (administrative penalties, misdemeanors) will apply to the host, not the minors.
Mayor Richard O’Brien expressed that the fine seemed a bit low and that they may consider making the fine higher as it is for businesses. For now the mandatory minimum penalty will be $500 for the first offense, $1,000 for the second, and $1500 for the third in a 12-month period.
People that have the fine imposed on them will have the right to appeal the citation.
The first reading passed 5-0 and there will be a second reading of the ordinance scheduled for the next regular city council meeting on Dec. 10, at which time it is also expected to be offered up for adoption.