SALISBURY – An effort to prohibit the consumption of marijuana in public areas will move forward in Wicomico County.
In a work session Tuesday, Wicomico County State’s Attorney Jamie Dykes, Deputy State’s Attorney Bill McDermott and Sheriff Mike Lewis presented the Wicomico County Council with proposed legislation that would prohibit the consumption of marijuana in public areas and vehicles.
“Just because marijuana now has an exception and you can possess marijuana legally by way of a medical marijuana card, it doesn’t mean you should be allowed to consume marijuana in public, as the statute says, on public street fares, sidewalks, in a shopping center or, more importantly, in your vehicle,” McDermott said.
The proposed legislation mirrors a recently adopted ordinance in Fruitland. Not only does the legislation prohibit marijuana consumption in vehicles and public areas but makes it a misdemeanor charge punishable by a fine of up to $500 and/or imprisonment not to exceed 90 days.
McDermott, who worked closely with town officials to draft the ordinance, said adopting similar county legislation will provide stricter enforcement measures in a changing legal landscape.
An example of that change, he noted, was a recent Court of Appeals ruling in the Pacheco v. State case. Last year, the court ruled the odor of marijuana was not enough to search a person.
“It is no longer probable cause, nor can they search a person incident to that arrest,” he said. “It doesn’t seem like it is that significant, but that is a gross departure from where we have always been with respect to the odor of marijuana.”
Law enforcement officials said the proposed legislation would be similar to laws for consuming alcohol in public areas and in vehicles.
“What we are aiming to do is first ensure that we retain the same quality of life that existed before Pacheco, that we ensure the decency laws that affect those who may consume alcohol are in parity with those who consume marijuana, and also protect those who may get behind what is a 5,000-pound weapon after having consumed marijuana and take the lives of those who have nothing to do with the consumption of marijuana,” McDermott said.
Lewis said driving under the influence of marijuana occurs on a daily basis in Wicomico County. He noted the legislation would give law enforcement officials greater ability to enforce the law and protect citizens.
The council agreed to introduce legislation at its next meeting.
“All this says is if you are going to do it, just do it at home,” McDermott said.