Suffolk County legislators may add controlled substances, including opioids, to the social host law that currently applies to the consumption of alcohol by minors.
The addition has been proposed in Nassau County and Suffolk lawmakers are expected to draft a similar bill.
The social host law currently makes it illegal for anyone over 18 who owns or rents a home to “knowingly allow the consumption of alcohol or alcoholic beverages by any minor” on the premises. Suffolk County strengthened its original social host law in 2016 by raising its penalty category from a violation to a misdemeanor.
Last spring, there were several social host law arrests on the North Fork after separate large house parties.
Southold Town Police Chief Martin Flatley said in an email Monday that, locally, police have dealt with house parties where alcoholic beverages are provided, “but I am not naive enough to think there aren’t also houses where youths are permitted to use controlled substances.”
Chief Flatley believes that adding controlled substances to the law is appropriate and consistent with a message law enforcement is trying to get across to parents, guardians and homeowners. “Take responsibility for the individuals in your home and do not allow underage youth to illegally consume alcohol or any controlled substances,” he said. “Overall, a good tool for law enforcement.”
Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue) said he is willing to consider the addition of controlled substances to the social host law.
“Anything you can do to make people more responsible or at least think about the consequences would be a good thing,” he said.
Felicia Scocozza, executive director of the Riverhead Community Awareness Program, said including controlled substances would give the current law more teeth and give law enforcement yet another tool to prevent harm and, potentially, loss of life among young people.
She noted that while there has been increased focus on opioids, alcohol use far exceeds that of controlled substances in terms of abuse by teens in most of Suffolk County. Within the last year, she said, she’s also noticed media coverage of social host law arrests.
“The No. 1 place where teens are drinking right now is either at home or at a house party or someone else’s home,” Ms. Scocozza said. “We asked that question about alcohol, but we don’t necessarily ask that question about the other drugs, which we might want to include in our next survey. But we ask that question because underage drinking is still the biggest substance abuse problem.”