Cumberland Times-News

December 7, 2012

Synthetic drug law expected in 2013 General Assembly

Sheriff speaks to delegation

Matthew Bieniek
Cumberland Times-News

— CUMBERLAND — A statewide ban on many synthetic drugs will likely be considered in the 2013 General Assembly session, Delegate Kevin Kelly told Allegany County commissioners.

A draft of the bill has been prepared, he said.

A law banning most of the substances and possible derivatives already exists in Allegany County. Kelly worked with Sheriff Craig Robertson and county commissioners to initiate the county law last year.

“I’ll totally support any ... laws or enforcement tools,” Robertson said, after hearing of the state proposal.

While Maryland bans bath salts and some synthetic drugs, the existing laws and regulations aren’t comprehensive and manufacturers and sellers often manage to skirt prosecution.

The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has recommended a statewide solution.

Robertson said the local law, passed in September, is bringing positive results.

“Medical people are telling me they’ve seen a large decline in the number of people coming into the emergency room,” Robertson said.

The five-page law, which was approved unanimously by commissioners, is modeled after a law in Ocean City and includes about two full pages specifying certain chemicals and chemical compounds that are banned.

Kelly’s comments came during Robertson’s meeting with the District 1 legislative delegation Thursday. Sen. George Edwards and Delegates Wendell Beitzel and LeRoy Myers Jr. also met with Robertson and Allegany County commissioners at the county office building.

Robertson also asked legislators to amend the law against panhandling passed last year in the General Assembly.

While the law has discouraged panhandlers and allowed officers to crack down on panhandling, it has interfered with boot drives by fire companies and other charitable events, Robertson said.

“I’d like an amendment which would allow an organization to apply for a permit for three or five consecutive days,” he said.

The current law authorizes only a one-day permit allowing activities that could be considered banned panhandling activities under the law.

Edwards said Robertson should send the delegation a letter with very specific details on the wording of the amendment.

In 2011, Robertson asked legislators for help in combating panhandlers in the county.

The delegation introduced and successfully shepherded the bill through the General Assembly in the 2012 session. It was then signed into law by Gov. Martin O’Malley.

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