Police Undermining City Council’s Intent

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The emergency ordinance, which bans salvia, approved by the Ocean City Mayor and Council is not being enforced as clearly written, and that’s something the town has to figure out immediately because it looks silly today.

Members of the Ocean City Police Department walked around the downtown area on Tuesday checking for compliance with the new ordinance. Three specific shops were found to be in violation because they were still stocking salvia, although numerous sources say that others are still peddling it in a discreet manner.

Although it’s a good thing the police were cracking down on the salvia dealers, all the shops that were selling paraphernalia before the ordinance was drafted were still doing so the day after the ordinance was signed into law. That’s illegal, according to this ordinance, which clearly states, “it shall be unlawful to offer for sale, deliver, sell or distribute salvia paraphernalia.” Yet, various paraphernalia, specifically hooka smoking devices, were clearly present in their shops. A couple of stores even had the paraphernalia in the front of their stores so Boardwalk pedestrians could clearly see them.

At last Thursday’s Police Commission meeting, no concerns over the ordinance were expressed by authorities. As a matter of fact, it was reported the ordinance would be strictly enforced once it was signed into law. When asked at that meeting by a reporter, Police Chief Bernadette DiPino confirmed enforcement would be strict. That did not happen, despite the fact three shops were cited for still selling salvia.

If the police felt there was any gray area or uncertainties about the new law, those needed to be brought up immediately and well before it became active. Clearly, somebody in the police department has concerns with it. Otherwise, they would have confiscated the illegal paraphernalia or at least filed charges. Alluding to the fact many were questioning the indecisiveness, police representatives said Wednesday they want to ensure the seizure of the paraphernalia is executed correctly and done so fairly. That’s hogwash. There was plenty of time to discuss fairness and proper enforcement before the ordinance was signed into law. That did not happen.

The council should be livid with the police department for not following the law. What’s the point of passing an ordinance if it’s not going to even be enforced? There is no reason to waste the time of making it an emergency ordinance.

The substance has indeed been removed from most shelves, but the council made it clear the paraphernalia was just as important as the contraband itself. There are legal questions surrounding this paraphernalia ban. It’s no secret there are “head shops” elsewhere legally selling bongs, bowls and hookas under the silly guise it’s for smoking tobacco. However, Ocean City moved to ban these devices in ots ordinance. Short of a formal legal challenge by the merchants, the ban should be carried out. The idea was to get the hookas off the shelves and out of view of the tourists on the Boardwalk.

If it’s not going to be enforced by the police department, the ordinance is a joke. It will remain that way until the police and elected officials get on the same page.

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