Salvia Bills Pass House, Senate

ANNAPOLIS – A pair of cross-filed bills banning the possession and sale of Salvia, a hallucinogenic herb currently legal in all corners of Maryland except Worcester County and Ocean City, passed votes in both the House and Senate this week, moving closer to final approval if certain elements in the language can be reconciled.

Maryland’s House of Delegates on Tuesday approved House Bill 1145, introduced by local Delegates James Mathias and Norm Conway, which would extend the ban on the possession or distribution of Salvia to individuals under the age of 21. Similar legislation was introduced last year, but failed to make it out of either chamber as the session expired.

Unwilling to wait for state lawmakers to pass a ban on Salvia, which had proliferated in the resort for several years prior, particularly on the Boardwalk, the Ocean City Mayor and Council last August passed an ordinance banning the possession and sale of the hallucinogenic herb anywhere in the resort by anyone regardless of age.

Less than a month later, citing concerns about the then-legal narcotic finding its way across the bridge into West Ocean City, the County Commissioners adopted their own Salvia ban in the county at-large that virtually mirrored the Ocean City ordinance word for word. With the proven models provided by Ocean City and Worcester County already on the books, Mathias and Conway introduced legislation that would extend a similar ban on the possession and distribution of Salvia statewide.

Senator Richard Colburn then introduced similar legislation on the Senate side that borrowed liberally from the House bill introduced by Mathias and Conway. Both pieces of legislation passed unanimously in their respective chambers this week, but certain elements in the language of the bills must be reconciled before they can be enacted into law.

The approved House and Senate bills stop short of a complete ban on Salvia across the state, instead making it illegal to distribute to persons under age 21 or possession by individuals under 21. Both cases would be a misdemeanor with a citation issued to violators. A first offense would include a $300 fine, with a $1,000 fine for subsequent offenses for a second offense within two years of the first offense and a $3,000 fine for any offense after that.

When the House bill was introduced, county officials criticized it for not going far enough, but its important to note the local laws on the books in Worcester County and Ocean City supercede any approved state legislation.