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Maryland and Worcester County Lead Country in Marijuana Arrests

     The American Civil Liberties Union reported that Maryland had the third highest number of Marijuana arrests per capita among the states in 2010, the last year for which data are available. Worcester County Maryland, home of Ocean City, had the highest marijuana possession arrest rate for all races of any county in the nation with a population of at least 30,000.  The ACLU estimates that Maryland spends more than $100 million a year to arrest, prosecute and incarcerate people arrested for marijuana possession.

    Maryland, and the Ocean City Police Department in particular, still aggressively enforces Marijuana laws despite the national trend in the opposite direction.  This takes many visitors to Ocean City by surprise when they bring Marijuana to Ocean City for vacation thinking there will be relaxed enforcement at the beach.  Ocean City is home to Seacrets- Jamaica USA- after all.  In fact, the Ocean City Police Department uses undercover police officers to approach people on the Boardwalk and ask for Marijuana, taking advantage of the communal/sharing nature of Marijuana users.  When the unsuspecting tourist shares a blunt or sells a dime bag, he gets arrested and prosecuted for Distribution of Marijuana, a felony.

     The Ocean City Police Department, along with all other Maryland law enforcement agencies, uses Marijuana as a convenient tool to initiate criminal investigations during ordinary traffic stops.  The most common excuse that police officers use to search a car during a traffic stop is the alleged odor of Marijuana coming from the vehicle.  If the police claim they smell Marijuana then they are permitted to search the vehicle without a search warrant.  Unfortunately, this tactic is ripe for abuse because it is virtually impossible for a person to refute that an officer smelled Marijuana.  This tactic can lead to the seizure of Marijuana, other contraband, and most importantly, cash.  Therefore, I expect that we will continue to see high arrest rates for Marijuana in Worcester County and Maryland.  

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