Smoking Citations Jump 488%; Officials Discuss Perceived Increase In Marijuana Use

Smoking Citations Jump 488%; Officials Discuss Perceived Increase In Marijuana Use
A sign above a smoking receptacle, below, is pictured on 4th Street. File Photo

OCEAN CITY – A discussion about police activity during the month of June evolved into a lengthy discussion about marijuana odor on the Boardwalk at a resort commission meeting this week.

On Monday, Ocean City Police Chief Ross Buzzuro presented the Ocean City Police Commission with an update on police activity for the month of June.

Last month, officer calls for service decreased by 17.7%, while citizen calls for service increased more than 30%.

In the top 25 calls for service, disorderly calls increased from 684 to 1,033, alcohol violations decreased from 509 to 428, and calls for noise complaints and violations increased from 188 to 277. The police department also reported 1,758 calls for city ordinance violations, marking a 40% decrease from June 2019.

“That’s a significant drop-off,” Buzzuro told the commission. “One of the biggest reasons for that is that our activity in terms of securing crime scenes, interviewing witnesses and investigations were rather extensive. Therefore, those ancillary duties, which included city ordinance violations, were decreased. We prioritized our activity, and it shows up in that number.”

Buzzuro noted custodial arrests increased from 552 to 600, and criminal citations decreased from 34 to 25. Drug arrests increased from 40 to 62, drug citations for marijuana decreased from 181 to 144, and weapons arrests increased from 40 to 73.

“Weapons arrests almost doubled,” he said.

The police department also reported a 488% increase in smoking citations along the Boardwalk.

“Last May there were 100 more smoking violations, from 8 to 108. In June there were 200 more, from 41 to 241,” Buzzuro said. “That type of activity continues to be one of our priorities, even in the month of June when we experience so much activity.”

Council Secretary Mary Knight questioned how the police department responded to marijuana odor. She noted the council had received numerous emails from individuals about the smell of marijuana on the Boardwalk.

Buzzuro said it wasn’t as simple as writing a citation. He noted the possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana was decriminalized in Maryland and that it was difficult to differentiate marijuana from CBD, a non-psychoactive compound found in the cannabis plant.

“We have seen an increase in marijuana, marijuana activity on the Boardwalk,” he said. “What can get confusing at times is the CBD plant, which is cannabis sativa … It’s sold within stores throughout Ocean City. So it’s accessible to the public, and the smell of CBD plant is the same or consistent as traditional burning of marijuana.”

Buzzuro added that the smell of marijuana often emanates from Boardwalk hotels.

“That marijuana is emanating from above and it’s actually affecting those patronizing the Boardwalk,” he said.

Capt. Elton Harmon also noted the prevalence of medical marijuana cards.

“We’re also seeing an increase in people who have medical marijuana cards, and all up and down the Boardwalk and the balconies we have people who are smoking marijuana with that as well,” he said. “When the legislation changed and opened this up, it’s made it more prevalent in public. We are seeing it all over because of that, between the CBD and legal medical marijuana. Then we have a lot of visitors who are coming here from other jurisdictions where it’s not enforced, and they bring their habits there.”

Knight said the issue was complex.

“I think it’s important for the public to understand it’s not as easy as it was 10 years ago, citing,” she said.

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.