A new law taking affect August 1 will target underage drinking in North Dakota by requiring anyone who receives a fine for alcohol related offenses to complete an eight-hour long substance abuse course. File photo: Pixabay.
BISMARK, ND – A new law in North Dakota will target underage drinking by requiring anyone who receives a fine or ticket for alcohol related offenses, even just carrying an open alcohol container, will be required to complete an eight-hour long substance abuse course. According to the Williston police, there were 104 citations issued for minors consuming or possessing alcohol in 2018. The measure is said to educate teens, not punish those effected.
For persons who receive a ticket, a violation for the use of alcohol, they are now referred and required to take this class,” — North Dakota Senator, Tim Mathern.
According to Mathern, teaching teens the dangers of alcohol, could also save the state as much as $160 million per year which is spent in relation to underage alcohol abuse. The new law was part of hundreds of bills approved during the biennial legislative session earlier this year.
While the state is not alone when it comes to problems with underage drinking, a new government study conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that North Dakota has the second-highest underage drinking rate in the nation with 25.3% of residents between 12 and 20 having at least one drink a month. Massachusetts (28.7 percent), Montana (22.1 percent), South Dakota (20.9 percent) and Minnesota (20.4 percent) were also all problem states according to the survey.
The Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration is an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that monitors underage drinking throughout the country.
Robyn Litke Sall, a substance abuse prevention coordinator with Fargo Cass Public Health said that while this latest law is a “step in the right direction”, more needs to be done.
It definitely is a problem here, absolutely. Underage drinking is a problem, adult binge drinking is a problem. Pretty much any problem you can associate with alcohol, is a problem here. We just have not been able to implement [laws] here because the culture of drinking here is so strong,” said Litke Sall.
Communities seeking assistance often operate under the Partnership for Success grant, a “Strategic Prevention Framework”, focusing on four areas — retail availability, social availability, enforcement and community norms. In Dickinson, Brandon Stockie, school resource officer with the Dickinson Police Department, said compliance checks of liquor establishments in the community are key in combating underage drinking.
We go in with a minor to attempt to buy or purchase alcohol to check their compliance to see if they’re following the ID rules about carding,” said Stockie.
Karen Goyne, registered nurse, Southwestern District Health Unit, says although retail is a problem, it isn’t the only area of focus in combating the states issues and that more needs to be done in the area of parenting and social environments.
The second area we were to look at was social availability, and this is the one that was highly identified by our stakeholders as saying kids are getting alcohol from older adults, whether it be parents or siblings, uncles, cousins, grandparents (or) other adults who will just buy it for them. We have to kind of deviate from the thought (that) we’ll provide the alcohol for them, we’ll keep them in our home, and we’ll keep them safe. You’re still giving them alcohol, and it’s still illegal,” she said. “You may think you’re keeping them safe because they’re not on the road, but what about those that maybe consume too much (and) combine it with something else? They fall asleep, and they don’t wake up.”
In North Dakota, like many other states, it is illegal to manufacture, purchase, consume or possess alcoholic beverages for those under 21. Punishment for offenders includes up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. Driving under the influence (.02 for minors) is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The new law took affect Thursday, August 1.