BERLIN – Roughly four months after Ocean City, and then Worcester County, passed emergency bills to ban the previously legal over-the-counter hallucinogenic drug salvia in the local area, state lawmakers are preparing to resume the battle in Annapolis.
In early August, after months of sometimes contentious debate, the Ocean City Mayor and Council passed an ordinance banning the possession and sale of the hallucinogenic herb salvia divinorum in the resort after the proliferation of the previously legal drug in the resort area, particularly around the Boardwalk stores that marketed and sold it.
Less than a month later, citing concerns of the then-legal narcotic finding its way across the bridge into West Ocean City, the Worcester County Commissioners adopted their own salvia ban in the county at-large with an emergency bill that practically mirrored Ocean City ordinance word for word. Ocean City and Worcester County opted to pursue local ordinances on banning the possession and sale of salvia after a failed attempt at a statewide ban failed during the 2009 General Assembly session.
House Bill 1261, introduced last year by five delegates including James Mathias and Norm Conway of District 38B, where the hallucinogenic drug was perhaps most prevalent, was passed by the House last year and made it out of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee near the end of the session. However, it died late in the session when it failed to come before a Senate vote.
With proven models approved and enacted in Ocean City and Worcester County, Mathias said this week he is preparing to take up the fight anew when the General Assembly session reconvenes on Jan. 13. Mathias said he has prepared an updated version he hopes to introduce early in the session.
“I was hoping to pre-file the bill, but we have to work through a few questions and issues,” he said. “We came so close last year and we want to anticipate any impediments to getting it through this year.”
Last year’s version would have prohibited the sale of salvia to individuals under 21 years of age, among other things, but with the success of the local bills in Ocean City and Worcester County, Mathias said he hopes to add more teeth to the effort this year.
“I’ve talked with the Attorney General a couple of times about this issue and he’s on board with it,” he said. “I feel really good about its chances this time around. I feel good about the templates for this legislation that the Ocean City and Worcester County bills have provided.”