Musings on the Coast: The New Prohibitionists

By Michael Ray.

Jason, my teenage friend, I know you are dead and cannot read this letter, but I had to write it anyway.

You just wanted to go drinking with your friends. Then you foolishly got behind the wheel and got yourself killed, and killed two innocents in the process. I am dreadfully sorry.  But it did not have to happen.

The adults in Laguna Beach just can’t put themselves in your shoes. They approved a law making parents outlaws for letting you drink in their homes. They think they are being vigilant and tough. They think outlawing drinking in your parents’ homes will stop you from drinking.

Some of Laguna’s council members know you would drink anyway but they caved in because it was easier than telling advocates the hard truth.   Some might even concede that teens act stupidly; they experiment, risk their bodies, drink alcohol, smoke marijuana, try cigarettes, jump off high cliffs and skateboard down steep streets at high speeds. They think they are invulnerable. They think nothing can kill them.

It used to be parents guided their teenagers through this hormone-driven craziness, not delegate it to a law known as the social host ordinance. But Laguna capitulated. It was much easier to substitute governmental supervision for good parenting. It was much easier to placate the advocates. Council members are elected.  They have positions to protect. Caving in was politically smart.

Jason, you knew it was easy to find an obscure place to drink.  It could be a beach or a park, but a darkened street was the easiest.   All you needed was a van with a couple of your buddies, a little weed and a six-pack.

You used to party at your parent’s place where they took away everyone’s car keys and made them stay the night. But at least you and your friends were safe. After that new law got passed, your parents freaked out and told you drinking at home was prohibited. You had no clue how paranoid they were of getting busted, going to so-called “classes” on “responsible” behavior, or of being classified as criminals.

You were also clueless that in the cities which had passed these social host ordinance laws, there was absolutely no statistical evidence whatsoever to show they curtailed teen drunkenness.  Nor could you have known that of all of the studies listed on the city of Laguna’s pro-law web site, not one—not one—was based on statistical evidence. It was all hearsay, which proves absolutely nothing. It did not matter.  The Prohibition Puritans had too much fire in their bellies.

You probably didn’t know Laguna already hit one of the state’s high marks for DUI arrests. How could it not? Tourists power the local economy and there are 80 percent odds anyone leaving a downtown restaurant after 10 p.m. will fail a Breathalyzer. For the cops, it is a shooting gallery.

It also means the City Council tolerates downtown drunks on account of the local economy, yet they object to you drinking in your own home.  If this is not hypocrisy, what is?

But hell, the hypocrisy won.  The new law got passed. Your parents freaked and you could not drink at home, so you drank elsewhere.  And drove. And killed yourself and two others because of it. You are dead.

Sorry, my young friend, it is just local politics at work.


P.S.  Jason does not exist, but he will.


Michael Ray grew up in CdM and now lives in Laguna Beach.  He makes a living as a real estate entrepreneur and is involved in many non-profits.


Editor’s Note: A final vote on the proposed social host ordinance by the City Council is scheduled for Dec. 4. Two newly elected members will cast votes.

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  1. Michael, you have voiced my worst fears about what I believe will be the unintended consequences of this new ordinance. I’m so disappointed in our city council. Powerful column.

  2. Michael, thank you for this thoughtful piece. There are many reasons why the SHO is a bad idea, but our kids safety is at the top of the list.

  3. 1 Healthy Kids Survey
    + 5 “supposed bad hosts”
    SHO for Laguna Beach + 1 dead child = ?

    Wake up Laguna…is the SHO worth the price?

  4. I often disagree with Michael Ray’s positions, but find myself in complete agreement here. You cannot legislate common sense. As Winston Churchill stated so succinctly, ‘If you have ten thousand regulations you destroy all respect for the law.’ He was correct, of course, but government loves power and fines, so don’t look for this, or any law, to be rescinded.


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