Reconciling teen drug, alcohol ordinances between Oak Park and River Forest slowed

Oak Park board raises concerns, will continue discussion

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By Jean Lotus

Contributing Reporter

The Oak Park village board briefly discussed, but took no action Monday on an effort to match up the teen drug and liquor ordinances of Oak Park and River Forest.

The high school stakeholder volunteer group IMPACT and the two village police departments proposed ironing out differences between the two village ordinances because students at Oak Park and River Forest High School live under two sets of rules, said Acting Village Attorney Simone Boutet.

But some board members wondered whether the ordinance, which forbids any amount of marijuana was behind the times. "Recent news reports say the county is looking at changing the prosecutorial approach to small amounts of marijuana," said Trustee Ray Johnson. "I think the county is trying to get away from arresting and prosecuting people with small amounts of marijuana."

Rowdy house parties and penalties for "social hosting" were a point of concern for Trustee Glenn Brewer, who said that he wanted parents to get notice of any police action against minors who were caught with drugs or alcohol.

Brewer also cautioned that the ordinance language proposed guilt-by-association for minors caught at a party where drugs and alcohol were present. "Simple presence at a gathering where underage consumption was taking place ... could cause one to receive a citation... In a situation where one teenager walks in the front door to a party and there's drug use in the kitchen, and five minutes after the teenager walks in the front door, the police rush in. We have to be careful [not to] slap a penalty on somebody who was there, not somebody who was using [drugs]."

Boutet said the previous rules required that police witness the underage drinking themselves. "They can walk into a party with empty beer cups and they don't enforce the ordinance unless the teenagers are holding on to the cup. There's beer all over and there's kids all over and everybody claims they were the only kid not drinking."

"That's a very fine line," said Brewer.

The village board will take up the issue again at a future meeting.

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