Worcester County Approves Substance Ban

SNOW HILL — Following in the steps of Ocean City, the Worcester County Commissioners decided Tuesday to ban several “cannabimimetic agents and hallucinogenic chemical substances” including the controversial K-2.

With innocuous aliases like “Mr. Nice Guy” and “Spice,” large amounts of K-2 began popping up on the Boardwalk and in Ocean City stores last summer.

“The worst part of all is that it’s being marketed to our kids,” said county attorney Sonny Bloxom.

According to Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) Lieutenant Mark Pacini, K-2 was being “openly marketed” in Ocean City last summer. Though officially sold as incense, Pacini explained that during a number of purchases, undercover officers were often told how to smoke K-2 and offered paraphernalia like hookahs or pipes. Smoking the drug, said Pacini, will cause symptoms similar to smoking marijuana, though often times even more pronounced.

Smoking K-2 may lead to an elevated heart rate, paranoia and panic attacks along with the traditional high associated with substances like marijuana. While there have been no deaths from K-2 in Maryland, Pacini told the commission that overdoses were not uncommon, with seven reported this summer in Ocean City.

The commissioners were then played the audio from a 911 call from someone who had overdosed on the drug and was clearly panicking.

“Hospitals weren’t aware of it,” Pacini said of K-2. “EMS weren’t aware of it.”

Commissioner Judy Boggs wondered how many overdose cases weren’t being reported by visitors not wanting to talk to hospitals or the police.

“I’m suspecting there were a lot of overdoses you didn’t see,” she told Pacini.

OCPD Captain Robert Bokinsky noted similarities between what’s going on now and the Salvia situation a few summers ago. Salvia, another hallucinogenic substance, was eventually banned by the Ocean City Mayor and Council and later the County Commissioners. A state law soon followed, though it only made it illegal to distribute or possess salvia for those under 21 years old.

“Salvia was a walk in the park compared to what we’re dealing with here [with K-2] as far legislating against,” said Bokinsky.

Because of the complexity of K-2, he explained, small chemical alterations could make the drug technically legal while preserving all of the effects.

“They [drug manufacturers] are just one chemistry class away from creating a whole new class [of K-2],” Bokinsky said.

“Drug dealers and manufacturers stay one step ahead of the law,” agreed Pacini.

Hoping to counter that, a list of five classes of hallucinogenic drugs and 15 individual substances were presented to the commission for possible banning. By hitting such a broad range, said Bokinsky, it would be harder for drug dealers to sneak mildly altered forms of K-2 under the radar.

With an endorsement from State’s Attorney Beau Ogelsby and Worcester County Sheriff Reggie Mason, Pacini urged the commission to act on the ban. With the gates to Ocean City closed, Pacini warned dealers could move over the bridge to West Ocean City or other parts of the county.

“This is a major, major, major operation,” said Commission President Bud Church.

The commissioners voted unanimously to ban the list of substances as well as any paraphernalia associated with K-2 or its variants. Because it is an emergency ordinance, all forms of the drug and paraphernalia will need to be removed from shelves immediately, with the Sheriff’s Office visiting county businesses to make sure the ordinance is being followed.