City Council Clarifies Confusion Over Paraphernalia

OCEAN CITY – An unscheduled agenda item has the City Council reconsidering the language of an emergency ordinance passed last week involving synthetic drugs and drug paraphernalia.

The two ordinances passed prohibit the sale, possession, manufacture and distribution of any substance that contains cannabimimetic or hallucinogenic agents as well as any type of drug paraphernalia.

Drug paraphernalia is further defined as equipment that is used, intended for use, is designed for use in or injecting ingesting, inhaling, or otherwise introducing a cannabimimetic or hallucinogenic chemical substance into the human body.

Police Chief Bernadette DiPino this week presented the Mayor and City Council with an update of action taken by the police department once the two emergency ordinances were passed.

“Our police officers went out to every business in our Town of Ocean City and delivered copies of the ordinances and made the merchants aware of the ordinances,” she said. “We sent officers out on the Boardwalk today to do a compliance check, and everyone is in compliance with the ordinance to date on the Boardwalk.”

DiPino added that there has been some confusion among the definition placed on paraphernalia, and Councilman Doug Cymek said the misunderstanding has come down to rolling papers used for tobacco products.

“What the problem is we have a lot of businesses that are selling pouch tobacco to their customers and they can’t buy the papers to roll their legitimate cigarettes,” Cymek said.

City Solicitor Guy Ayres explained that when he drafted the ordinances there were two sections referring to the Criminal Law Article.

“One of the sections that it refers to lists various items that are considered paraphernalia and I do not believe rolling papers were listed,” he said. “The other section mentioned talks about the circumstances that have to be taken into consideration to see whether it meets the definition of paraphernalia.”

Ayres went on to say if rolling papers were to be considered paraphernalia then it would have to be sold in conjunction with drug substances. If the rolling papers are sold in conjunction with legitimate tobacco, then it should meet legal criteria.

“It [ordinance] will cover what is legal and what is not legal,” DiPino said. “If they’re selling it in a business that has tobacco, they’re fine but in the case with the Boardwalk stores they were selling it in conjunction with substances.”

DiPino said she will instruct officers to return to stores and let them know they are allowed to sell rolling papers in conjunction with legitimate tobacco, not with drug substances.

Mayor Rick Meehan thanked DiPino and the police department for moving swiftly in taking action on the newly passed drug ordinances.

“I know what you will do is routinely check all the different establishments because as we all know things tend to resurface in particular these type of products,” the mayor said.