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Neighborhood Services

Social Host Ordinance

Overview

There are a growing number of communities who are adopting social host ordinances which hold a party host responsible when underage drinking occurs. In some cases, underage consumption of marijuana also applies. City staff has performed significant research on this issue and has been working with other agencies and key stakeholders to develop potential options for community members to review.

On April 18, 2016, City Council approved a new Social Host Ordinance (SHO). The SHO is an additional tool that is intended to help reduce underage drinking and drug use in our community. Enforcement related to the new SHO started on August 1, 2016.

Social Host Ordinance (SHO)

Through our research, we have found that other communities address this item in various ways.  Tools that were already in place at the City of Fort Collins to help address this item included:

  • Minor in Possession (MIP) law
  • Unreasonable noise law
  • Nuisance gathering law
  • Public Nuisance Ordinance
  • Contributing to the delinquency of a minor law

Although we had many tools, there remained a gap for instances where a host was providing a place where underage consumption of alcohol and/or marijuana was occurring but the host did not provide it. As well, staff was seeking a non-criminal response option for these types of issues. This resulted in the request and approval of the new Social Host Ordinance.

The City's Social Host Ordinance

  • Holds a person liable when
    • The person has legal control of and access to a private place; and
    • They are present while underage consumption is occurring
  • Is a civil infraction
    • Penalties are limited to fines, classes and public service
      • $100+ fine
    • No jail time or criminal record results unless a person gets a third offense
  • Is not tied to the Public Nuisance Ordinance
  • Does not apply when
    • There is parental consent (only applies to the parent's son/daughter)
    • The underage person has a valid medical marijuana registry card
    • The consumption is occurring as part of a class supervised by an instructor (an example would be culinary class)
    • There are religious purposes (an example would be communion)
    • The young person is part of a supervised valid investigation

We have frequently been asked why Fort Collins looked into this.  Here are some statistics that relate to Colorado teens:

  • 81% tried alcohol at some point in their life by the 12th grade 
  • Almost 19% had their first drink prior to age 13
  • 56.5% used some form of illegal drug by the 12th grade
  • 6.8% used an illegal drug before the age of 13

Laws and Ordinances