New Md. bills drafted to address substance abuse

WASHINGTON – Maryland lawmakers are already at work drafting bills on issues dealing with substance abuse and public safety.

Fake Pot

Under a bill drafted by Maryland Delegate Kevin Kelly, D-Allegany County, synthetic marijuana would be categorized as a controlled, dangerous substance. It’s already illegal under federal law, so some want to know why there’s a need for state legislation.

Kelly says when it comes to enforcement, “the feds just do not have the resources,” so he’s proposing the statewide law so that local prosecutors can pursue cases involving the chemical compounds known as “spice,” “K2″ or “K5.”

A similar bill on synthetic pot failed last year, but legislation banning bath salts passed, and that’s why Kelly’s optimistic. His proposal would mirror the bath salts bill.

The Gazette newspaper reports that part of the problem in legislating against synthetic marijuana, or any synthetic drug, is that manufacturers can make one small change to the chemical makeup of the product so that it’s no longer illegal. Kelly says that simply means that the law will have to be tweaked to deal with those changes.

Driving drunk when kids are in the car

Another bill reappearing in Annapolis this year: An effort to require anyone who drives drunk with kids in the car to have an interlock device installed in their vehicle. Delegate Sam Arora, D-Montgomery County, is submitting this bill, again, because he says driving while impaired with children in the car is “beyond reckless.”

Under current Maryland law, motorists convicted of driving drunk are ordered to install an interlock device only if they’ve blown 0.15, nearly double the legal limit. Arora’s bill would change that, requiring the interlock if a driver had a blood alcohol content of 0.08, the current limit at which a driver is deemed impaired.

Arora came up with the legislation based on two things. First, reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cite the following statistic: Most people who drove drunk with kids present in the car weren’t driving drunk for the first time. Far from it. According to the CDC, those drivers likely drove 80 times before they were ever cited by an officer.

The other trend that prompted the legislation involves an increase in the number of people driving drunk with children in their cars. The Washington Regional Alcohol Program reported that between 2009 and 2011, there was a 10 percent increase.

WTOP’s Kate Ryan contributed to this report. Follow @KateRyanWTOP and @WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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