The Vista City Council unanimously voted Tuesday to update its social host law in light of the fact that marijuana consumption is now legal for adults age 21 and older.
First adopted in 2003, Vista’s law held property owners and renters liable for underage consumption of alcohol and other “controlled substances” in gatherings of three or more people on their properties, subjecting anyone who knew or should have known about such activity to a fine of up to $1,000 and up to six months of jail time.
The city’s current social host ordinance looks to the California Penal Code for a controlled substance definition. Cannabis has for a long time been among those substances, but was removed after passage of Proposition 64, a statewide ballot initiative that legalized marijuana consumption for those age 21 and older.
As other local governments have in recent weeks and months, Vista opted to revise its ordinance, calling out marijuana alongside alcohol as legal items that all owners and lessors must make sure are not consumed by those who have not yet celebrated their 21st birthdays.
The revised ordinance also adds a new section on civil liability and cost recovery, specifying that while “willful” damage to person or property caused by anyone under age 18 can be the responsibility of that person’s parent or guardian, social hosts can be held responsible for any injuries done to others present.
The new ordinance, which takes effect Sept. 13, revisions also open social hosts to a much larger set of financial liabilities, stating that they are responsible to reimburse the city for the costs of any law enforcement or other city response to a property where prohibited underage drinking or drug use occurs. In cases where a minor is the social host, those costs can be assigned to a parent or guardian.
And, with its latest social host ordinance update, the city moves to make sure that simply claiming a lack of knowledge of a person’s age is not enough to deflect liability. Social hosts, revisions state, must take “all reasonable steps” to keep underage partiers away from the booze and cannabis products, including “verifying the age of persons attending the gathering by inspecting drivers’ licenses or other government-issued identification cards.
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