Fruitland is a small Eastern Shore city located off of Route 13, just south of Salisbury and a few miles north of Princess Anne. As an incorporated municipality, Fruitland maintains a city council that can enact legislation, and a police department to enforce its laws. With a population of around five thousand residents though, it’s no surprise that major news headlines do not appear when Fruitland passes new laws. Last month, Fruitland lawmakers passed an ordinance making it a crime to smoke marijuana in public. There was little fanfare surrounding the passage of this law despite the fact that almost everything cannabis makes it to the various online news site. Last month there wasn’t a peep about the Fruitland law anywhere on the internets. But other local government agencies were paying attention, and now Wicomico County officials have proposed the same type of legislation to their respective lawmakers in the county council.
The State’s Attorney’s Office and the Sheriff of Wicomico County have asked the council to consider sprucing up the county’s marijuana laws in order to give police arresting authority for public marijuana consumption. In a time where marijuana laws are becoming more lenient some jurisdictions are pushing for the opposite. As a criminal defense lawyer Blog we are almost always on the opposite side of law enforcement when it comes to reforming drug laws. Public consumption of marijuana though is a complicated issue, and it’s hard to disregard either side of the argument. For starters, nobody should ever be subject to criminal prosecution and the potential for a jail sentence for smoking marijuana. At the same time, citizens have a right to object to being exposed to marijuana use when they are in public, and law enforcement has a right to speak for the public on this.
We have long since believed that marijuana should be treated the same as alcohol, as both are recreational drugs that people enjoy, and both cause impairment. The purchase and sale of both should be legal, taxed and regulated, and the public consumption of both should be unlawful but not punishable by incarceration. Public consumption of alcohol is a civil infraction under Maryland law, which is punishable by a fine, but certain municipalities have criminalized this offense. When examining the utility of a stricter statute for public consumption of marijuana we can easily look to similar alcohol ordinances for comparison.