A Serious Concern That Needs Attention

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Ocean City wants to take care of a problem that the state legislature could not earlier this year, but it looks like officials’ hands are tied.

For at least the last two summers, salvia, a hallucinogenic plant sold in a variety of forms, has been present on Ocean City’s Boardwalk. The liquid form seems to be the most readily available for sale by merchants. It’s popular among young people, many of whom are unaware of what it can do when ingested.

According to salvia.net, “The effects produced by salvia divinorum are not comparable to the effects produced by other psychoactive substances. Depending on body weight, sensitivity, dose taken, method of ingestion and the strength of the salvia that is used, the effects range from subtle to extremely strong. Salvia can not be considered a party drug in any way. On the contrary, people that under the effects of salvia are usually not interactive, but have a very personal hallucinating experience.”

A bill introduced this winter by Delegates Jim Mathias and Norm Conway sought to ban the sale of the substance. This seemed like a logical place to start, while the federal government’s Drug Enforcement Administration continued to study how to classify it. The bill passed the House without a dissenter but failed to get to the Senate floor.

The state should have passed this measure, and it’s unclear why it never got the attention it deserved on the Senate side in this year’s legislative session. Ocean City was trying to take steps this week to address the situation. It appears the city wants to at least ban the sale to anyone under the age of 18, but there are legal questions to be answered before such an ordinance is drafted.

Twenty states have banned salvia in some form or another. Maryland ought to be one of them, but until the state gets its act together and a law is passed Ocean City should put something on paper. Last summer, the town’s police commission discussed the matter and seemed intent on taking an age-related ordinance to the Mayor and Council.

This week, it seems the council may not hear of anything more of it, as the police commission seemed to conclude there was nothing that could be done to regulate it. Instead, it seems the city’s only option is to ask merchants to not sell it or at least not openly advertise it on their storefronts any longer. That’s tactic has been successful in the past regarding the vulgar T-shirts, and there’s nothing to indicate anything will be different with salvia.

Another summer of salvia sales is concerning, but that appears to be what’s happening in town. It’s our hope the legislature will not let politics get in the way of a necessary ban next year. In the meantime, we simply have to hope the local legislators have better luck on with Senate colleagues next year. It may help if all the local governments and service industry representatives jump on board and provide support as well.

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