The Maryland legislature today passed a sweeping drug paraphernalia bill that would outlaw the manufacture, sale and possession of items, including pipes, scales, balloons, cigarette-rolling papers and even spoons, intended for drug use.
Today's final vote of 102 to 25 in the House of Delegates was aimed at adding Maryland to a small but growing number of states that have enacted such laws designed to cut into marijuana and other drug use. Georgia and North Dakota already have such laws and similar measures are in effect in localities around the country, including Prince George's and Anne Arundel counties in Maryland.
Most of these laws, many of them based on a model statute drafted by the U.S. Justice Department at President Carter's request, are under court challenge on constitutional grounds. Some Maryland legislative leaders here said today, even as they voted for the law, that they expect it to be declared unconstitutional.
The General Assembly leaders said they plan to send the tough law to Gov. Harry Hughes along with a second, more moderate measure, already passed by the House and nearing enactment in the Senate, that would attempt to limit sale of paraphernalia through the civil court means now used to control pornography.
Hughes, in turn, has pledged to sign the bills if they are found to be constitutional. "If legislation is passed in this area and if it makes sense and is constitutional, then I'll support it," Hughes said this afternoon, adding that he would rely on Maryland Attorney General Stephen H. Sachs for a ruling on constitutionality.
One factor likely to determine the final judgment on the constitutionality of the strict bill passed today will be the decision of a U.S. district court judge in Ohio on the constitutionality of a similar parphernalia law recently enacted in a small town there. That decision, which will be the first ruling by a federal judge on the constitutionality of such laws, is expected within two weeks, Maryland officials said.
The measure passed by the General Assembly today bans "all equipment, products and materials of any kind" that are used for "planting, cultivating, manufacturing, storing or ingesting" any controlled drug.
Under the bill's provisions, a person could still buy any of the items cited, such as cigarette papers or pipes, without violating the law. If, however, a judge determined that the owner of these items intended to use them to consume drugs, the items would be subject to confiscation.
If a judge also determined that the owner or manufacturer intended to pass the items on, the owner could be convicted of a misdemeanor and fined up to $500 for a first offense. Subsequent offenses carry penalties of up to two years' imprisonment and a $2,000 fine.
The measure lists 13 criteria courts should use in determining whether objects such as pipes and spoons are intended for drug use. These include "the manner in which the object is displayed for sale," statements by an owner . . . concerning its use" and the existence of drug residue on the item.
Critics of the bill pointed out today that the law would make garden hoes, lawn hoses, boxes and spoons of all kinds illegal, if police believed they were intended to contribute to drug usage.
"I cannot vote for any bill that would make a blender . . . illegal," said Del. Sheila Hixon (D-Montgomery).
Nevertheless, supporters of the bill said it should be passed, as House Judiciary Committee Chairman Joseph Owens (D-Montgomery) put it, "to cover all the bases."
"In great likelihood this bill will be declared unconstitutional," Owens said. "But let's give the governor the choice."
Other delegates said that they voted for the bill without regard for the constitutionality issues because of public pressure drive so-called head shops out of business.
"We are giving head shops the message that we are going to make it very difficult and unpleasant -- if not impossible -- for them to do business in this state," said Del. William Horne (D-Talbot), who helped draft the more moderate bill.
The second bill expected to go to Hughes bans the sale or manufacture of five specific paraphernalia items, including several varieties of marijuana "bong" pipes.
It also would allow local prosecutors to seek court injunctions against the sale of other paraphernalia by specific shops or stores. If a judge granted the injunction after a hearing, head shop owners would face stiff fines if they continued to sell the items.