During a Ocean City Council meeting last week that was ostensibly about expanding the city’s police force by funding 10 additional full-time officers, the council took some time to figure out how they can curtail cannabis use on the boardwalk and beach.
In Maryland, cannabis is decriminalized up to 10 grams which is punishable only by a ticket and in addition, Maryland has medicinal cannabis. All of this appeared to frustrate and confuse Councilperson John Gehrig, who framed cannabis smoking as a nuisance to Ocean City’s “family image” and suggested the use of drug dogs to search out cannabis and hotel owners to report cannabis users for doing something they are ostensibly allowed to do.
“You know what I think about this marijuana problem. And I don’t know if it’s marijuana or CBD, I don’t care if it’s medical marijuana, I think we really need to work with the state,” Gehrig said. “There’s no reason to smoke medical marijuana. If someone’s stressed out and needs a joint and needs marijuana they can eat a gummy bear or something. We have to get rid of this smoke. Drink a drink, eat a pill, or eat a gummy bear or a mushroom on your pizza or whatever it takes to get cured but no need to be smoking weed when it’s disrupting what we’re doing here.”
A conversation about funding the police during a moment when nationally, the conversation is about defunding police (not to mention, The Ocean City Police Department were recently scrutinized for a brutal arrest of a Black man during an unofficial car rally in late September) was surprising but Gehrig seemed to be suggesting additional police could somehow be used to investigate and prevent cannabis use.
“I know how hard it is and I know CBD smells like marijuana but if it smells like it, it doesn’t matter what it is, if it smells like it then it’s marijuana. We need to beat that. Because it’s bad. And I don’t take my kids anywhere where I have to walk through marijuana all over the place,” Gehrig said. “Now part of that is you know hiring an economic development salesperson to go out and get customers who aren’t going to be smoking a bunch of marijuana. That’s one piece. Somehow we’re going to have to enforce, I don’t know if that’s dogs, I don’t know if we work with hotels to identify the problem, get people in the hotels and rentals. But we have to come up, we need a task force on marijuana because that went to a new level this year.”
The Ocean City Council’s interest in curbing people’s rights, skirting laws, all in the name of tourism and being “family friendly” is well-known. Over the past few years in particular, the city of Ocean City has come out against a number of expressions of the first amendment including: a man on the boardwalk wearing a sign directed at Maryland’s governor which read, “Suck My Dick Larry Hogan / Go Fuck Yourself You Nazi Cunt” (the man’s signed fell under freedom of speech); a problematic ban on “topless women” (which was upheld); and a lengthy effort to target and censor boardwalk artists and musicians (that case was settled out of court with the Ocean City artists).
Gehrig continued, invoking the “family image” of Ocean City, a place whose boardwalk is full of offensive Donald Trump merchandise and other offensive sexist and racist t-shirts and novelty mugs.
“You know, we’re in a state where we encourage getting high and doing everything else, so we’re gonna have to deal with that because it can kill us. It can destroy our family image for sure, if we have marijuana everywhere,” Gehrig said. “So we have to have a plan for this money that we invest, we have to start thinking of a plan on how we’re going to attack pot. And look you know, those who want to smoke weed go ahead and smoke weed man but you shouldn’t be impacting everyone around us and our visitors so it’s uh, we just have to enforce that.”
How this would be enforced exactly was not discussed by Gehrig and no one asked him to explain further.
Photo by Eliyahu Yosef Parypa via Shutterstock