The town of Walkersville could be the third municipality in Frederick County to ban the sale and use of synthetic marijuana, also known as “spice.”
The Walkersville burgess and commissioners will hold a public hearing allowing residents to weigh in on a proposed ordinance banning the substance at 7 p.m. Dec. 12 in Town Hall at 21 W. Frederick St.
Officials said they know of no one in the town selling spice but because it is now banned in the city of Frederick and Thurmont, they wanted to keep businesses prevented from selling it in those municipalities from moving into Walkersville and setting up shop.
“We wanted to be proactive,” Commissioner Chad Weddle said. “We don’t have any current problems with it, but other towns have banned it, and we didn’t want it brought into Walkersville.”
Following Frederick city’s decision on Nov. 1, to ban the sale of the substance, Joe Cohen, the owner of Classic Cigars and British Goodies, which sold spice and was the source of complaints from nearby downtown business owners, has opened a new store selling the substance at 4725A Araby Church Road in Frederick. The new store is outside of Urbana in Frederick County, where spice is not banned.
Weddle, who proposed the Walkersville ban, said spice is a dangerous substance that should not be sold anywhere in the county.
“I’ve seen it from the [Emergency Medical Services] side, and hearing from people in my church, the effects can cause severe reactions,” he said. “The reactions are more than with medical marijuana.”
Synthetic marijuana is similar to tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the active compound found in marijuana, but is much stronger than the real thing, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is sold as potpourri or incense not meant for human consumption but users smoke it like marijuana.
Weddle said the proposed ordinance is modeled after the city’s law passed by the Frederick Board of Alderman on Nov. 1.
The city ordinance bans the sale, purchase, manufacture, distribution, transportation, trade or consumption of synthetic marijuana. A violation is a criminal misdemeanor and carries a penalty of up to $1,000, 90 days in jail or both.
If passed, Walkersville’s law would be the same, although Weddle said the fine could be less.
There were at least six businesses in Frederick that were known to sell the substance before the ban. They each were notified of the new law, and no arrests have been made.
Thurmont has also banned the sale of spice, and the Frederick County Board of Commissioners voted to include a ban in their package of legislative requests also approved on Nov. 1. The commissioners will present the bills to the eight-member state legislative delegation on Friday.
Commissioners’ President Blaine R. Young told The Gazette in October that he is afraid that if municipalities begin banning spice, the people who use or sell it would move into the unincorporated areas of the county.
The town of Mount Airy has yet to discuss a ban, Town Administrator Monika Weierbach said this week.
Middletown also has no plans to enact a ban, Town Administrator Drew Bowen said Tuesday.
“It isn’t even on the radar, and I hope it never is,” he said.
If the county bill is passed by the Maryland General Assembly, or a statewide bill is enacted during the 90-day session that begins on Jan. 9, the proposed town law will expire, Weddle said.
“I have a sunset provision that will end [the law] at certain time, and can be renewed,” he said. “It’s my hope that the legislature will bring it up next session.”
Staff Writer Tripp Laino contributed to this story.