Friday, Feb 5–County Takes Issue With Salvia Legislation

SNOW HILL – Under recently introduced state legislation, the controversial hallucinogen salvia could reappear on store shelves in Worcester County, with sales of the substance restricted to adults 21 and over.

The proposed state legislation, House Bill 13, would treat salvia divinorum like alcohol, said county attorney Sonny Bloxom.

“They’re in essence trying to treat it as underage possession of alcohol,” Bloxom told the Worcester County Commissioners Tuesday morning.

The bill, pre-filed by Delegates Adelaide Eckardt (R-37B) and Jeannie Haddaway (R-37B), would permit sales of the hallucinogenic form of salvia to adults.

In late summer 2009, Ocean City passed legislation outlawing salvia sales, salvia possession, and sales of salvia paraphernalia.

Worcester County then passed legislation banning salvia sales, possession and paraphernalia, nearly identical to the Ocean City legislation, to get ahead of the problem.

County elected officials expected that the Maryland General Assembly would pass an equally stringent salvia ban during the winter 2010 session, now underway.

“It looks like they’re not going to deal comprehensively with it,” said Bloxom.

Commissioner Linda Busick was hopeful other more stringent bills will be introduced.

“It’s my understanding that other members of the legislature were intending on introducing other bills,” Busick said.

Busick was instrumental in pursuing the county salvia ban in summer 2009.

“This is certainly not acceptable to me. This is far more serious than alcohol or tobacco,” said Busick.

The problems with salvia are not limited to the Ocean City Boardwalk or the rest of Worcester County, supporters of the salvia ban said. Salvia is already banned in the entire state of Delaware and several other states.

“This is a problem statewide. This is a problem nationwide,” said Busick.

“This is a substance that has some real issues,” said Bloxom.

Allowing only people 21 and over to purchase salvia does not address broader issues like people driving under the influence of the hallucinogen, Bloxom said.

Busick characterized House Bill 13 as a “watered down” bill.

“This certainly is not good enough,” Busick said.

The proposed state salvia bill would also include a study to be conducted this year to determine if further restrictions on salvia need to be enacted, Busick noted.

“I’d rather see nothing than this piece of legislation,” said Bloxom.

The over-21 bill, if passed, is written in a way that would allow it to supersede Worcester County’s more stringent salvia ban, Bloxom said.

The 21-and-over sales restriction would also be impossible to enforce, Bloxom told the commissioners.

“We don’t have a police officer there 24-7 to make sure no one under 21 would buy it,” said Bloxom.    

The commissioners agreed to send letters to House Bill 13’s sponsoring delegates registering their opposition to the bill as it stands, and including a copy of Worcester County’s legislation from last September that banned salvia and salvia paraphernalia.

The commissioners will also send letters supporting a strict salvia sales, possession and paraphernalia ban to the Eastern Shore delegation members.

“I’m sure there will be more legislation offered,” said Busick.