OCEAN CITY – Councilman Joe Hall says he wants to see salvia go away, but he doesn’t think the town should instill emergency legislation to stop a bad perception or image.
Hall was the lone “nay” in Tuesday’s council decision to request for an emergency ordinance to be created that would make the sale or possession of salvia illegal in Ocean City.
Hall’s stance on the issue surprised many at City Hall on Tuesday, as Hall is a father of six, owns a family restaurant and has long been a vocal supporter of the town’s Play it Safe campaign, which advocates sober and safe activities for young people when they visit Ocean City.
“Joe, I would think with your involvement with Play it Safe that this would be an issue that concerns you,” said Councilman Doug Cymek, “I’d ask you to go down and see what’s happening on the Boardwalk and do your homework on this product and seriously reconsider your vote before Monday night.”
Hall says, however, that he condemns not only the product but also the merchants who sell salvia, but can’t vote for the emergency ordinance as it’s currently written.
“I just think it’s an issue that needs to be dealt with on the state level, and believe me, those merchants who sell salvia and the paraphernalia are willingly working against this town’s family image or brand, and they’ve been doing it for years, but I want this done right, and I think that’s on the state level,” Hall said.
Hall contests that the issue became an “emergency” because of perception, the tarnishing of the town’s image, and visitor complaints, which he says is notable, but doesn’t constitute an emergency.
“I haven’t seen any reports from the EMS officials about salvia-related incidents or injuries, or any reports on salvia-related crimes and that’s the type of thing that would make it an emergency, but right now, this has boiled up to the top because of image and what it does to our family brand,” Hall said.
The decision to make the law a misdemeanor offense could be the main point that will keep Hall on the “nay” side, as he agrees with City Solicitor Guy Ayres that the municipal law expected to be passed by council on Monday night will be preempted by state law.
“If it were a municipal infraction rather than a misdemeanor charge, I might be able to vote for the ordinance because if you took all my product away and then slapped me with a $1,000 fine, I certainly wouldn’t sell that product ever again,” Hall said.
Hall said he understands his stance on the issue may make him look hypocritical, but he hopes that the people who know him and what he stands for will understand his position.
“I feel very strongly that we need to draw a line between what local government needs to do and what the state should handle, but I just kind of wish I didn’t have to make this stand on an issue like salvia because I would like to see it go away,” he said.