Carroll County proposes ban on synthetic drugs

Joining local municipalities and cities around the state, Carroll County commissioners are looking to prohibit the sale and possession of synthetic drugs in the county.

The Board of County Commissioners, acting in the capacity of the county board of health, introduced an ordinance to the county code Tuesday that establishes penalties for the possession or distribution of synthetic drugs. The action targets substances sprayed with chemical products that, when used, produce a high similar to marijuana.

A statewide ban on synthetic marijuana has been in place since Oct. 1.

The county ordinance was requested by Commissioner Haven Shoemaker to identify synthetic drugs and associate penalties with their possession.

Under the ordinance proposed by the county, any person found in possession of, or selling, synthetic drugs faces a misdemeanor charge that could result in up to 90-day imprisonment, a fine of $1,000, or both.

The ordinance clarifies that each packet of synthetic drugs found on an individual constitutes one offense. It also states that having "not for human consumption" printed on the package is not an acceptable defense.

The commissioners voted unanimously to bring the ordinance to a public hearing. Commissioner Richard Rothschild left the meeting early and was not present for the vote.

The Manchester Town Council approved a similar ordinance in December, which made possessing or distributing synthetic drugs a misdemeanor with a possible penalty of six months in prison, a $1,000 fine, or both.

The Hampstead Town Council is considering a similar ordinance.

Cities around the state, such as Frederick and Ocean City, have banned the sale of synthetic drugs.

But, Shoemaker acknowledged, the "cocktails" used to make synthetic drugs are ever changing.

"It's an ongoing battle to deal with the synthetic drug issue," said Shoemaker, a Hampstead attorney.

In February, the Westminster Police Department seized about 1,200 individual packets of suspected synthetic marijuana from the Oceanic Gas Station in Westminster. An employee of the store was arrested and charge with multiple counts, including possession of a controlled dangerous substance with the intent to distribute.

The arrest culminated an 11-month investigation by police into the sale of synthetic marijuana at the gas station.

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