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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, February 1, 2017
Ramiro Chavez, Interim County Manager, Board of County Commissioners Office, (360)754-2960, or email at chavezr@co.thurston.wa.us

Commissioners Set Public Hearing on Draft Social Host Ordinance
Commissioners to hear public comment on a new chapter of Thurston County Code

OLYMPIA - The Thurston County Board of Commissioners set a public hearing to receive comments on amending Title 10 of Thurston County Code to add new language related to underage drinking and marijuana use, and implementing civil penalties. The hearing is set for Tuesday, February 28, 2017 at 3:00pm at the Thurston County Courthouse, Building 1, room 280.

What: Public Hearing for a Draft Social Host Ordinance
When: Tuesday, February 28, 2017 at 3:00 p.m.
Where: Thurston County Courthouse, 2000 Lakeridge Drive SW, Olympia WA, Building 1, Room 280

Thurston County worked closely with the TOGETHER! organization to craft a social host ordinance in support of citing responsible individuals hosting a gathering with minors where underage alcohol or marijuana use is taking place. The ordinance makes it illegal to provide an environment where underage drinking takes place, regardless of who provides the alcohol.

The ordinance states that upon identification of an underage gathering, where alcohol and marijuana are present and/or dispensed to underage individuals, law enforcement may issue a notice of civil infraction to any or all known responsible persons with a penalty of $250 for each cited responsible person.

"I'm really excited about this ordinance," said Commission Chair, Bud Blake. "It is a great way to begin the conversation about alcohol and marijuana use and how it can affect the youth in our community."

Commission Vice-Chair John Hutchings said, "As a prior board member on TOGETHER! and retired law enforcement, I am very happy to see this moving forward in Thurston County." He said, "Data has shown a trend of increased marijuana use and that most youth get marijuana and alcohol at parties or from friends. A social host ordinance is another tool for law enforcement to help restrict access to these substances."

"Our intent in introducing this ordinance is not to penalize people but to change the culture and the way we approach the topic of alcohol and marijuana use among youth," said Commissioner Gary Edwards. "We aren't seeking to punish responsible adults, but encouraging responsible behavior."

TOGETHER!'s Executive Director, Meghan Sullivan said, "Social host ordinances are a proven strategy to reduce youth substance abuse. We worked closely with the City of Rainier to adopt a similar policy in 2012 and Lacey is currently considering it as well." She said, "We are excited to see Thurston County working to implement this effective approach to prevent and reduce underage alcohol and marijuana use."

For a copy of the draft ordinance visit: http://www.co.thurston.wa.us/legal-notices/legal-notice-20170201-public-hearing-title-10-amendment-proposed-ordinance.pdf

Public testimony will be accepted at the February 28, hearing. The public may submit written comments in lieu of testimony at the hearing. Written comments can be emailed to Ramiro Chavez, Interim County Manager, chavezr@co.thurston.wa.us, hand delivered, or mailed to:
Thurston Board of County Commissioners
Attn: Ramiro Chavez
2000 Lakeridge Drive SW
Olympia, WA 98502

The deadline for written comments is 5:00 p.m. Monday, February 27, 2017. County commissioners may choose to approve the draft ordinance at the end of the February 28 public hearing, or they may request that staff make changes to the proposal following the public hearing.

TOGETHER! is a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the health and well-being of all young people. For more information about TOGETHER! visit: http://www.thurstontogether.org/ 

County Commissioners:

Carolina Mejia
District 1

Gary Edwards
District 2

Tye Menser
District 3