ELKTON — The judicial phase of cases involving violations of Maryland tobacco laws may come to rest on the Cecil County Board of License Commissioners.
Jen Padgett, tobacco coordinator for the Cecil County Health Department, proposed that the county liquor board should take on the prosecution, a move that was made possible by the Maryland General Assembly in 2019.
“There are 120 tobacco retailers in Cecil County and 60 of those are (selling) tobacco and alcohol,” Padgett said. By putting the cases of both licenses under the same body it would streamline the process.
“And retailers would feel more comfortable with the process due to the familiarity with the Cecil County Liquor Board,” she said. Also, in the court system it’s likely the business owner accused would see a different judge every time, while at the local level the deciding board is the same faces. “You would. know more about the background and provide more equitable judgment. There would also be more accountability by moving it out of district court.”
Padgett said the county would have to enact its own set of rules and regulations by legislation but that too, would have advantages.
“We have made training mandatory for alcohol servers. I would like to get something similar with tobacco,” she said. TIPS training teaches those that serve alcohol how to spot a person who has had too much, how to tactfully decline service and how to spot an underaged person trying to purchase alcoholic beverages.
Liquor Board Chairman Steve Miller was concerned about the budget, if he would have to hire extra manpower for the new duties. Padgett said the Cecil County Sheriff’s Office would continue to assist in enforcement. She added only 3 to 20 citations are issued annually.
Those found guilty could pay up to $3,000 in fines.
“A judge can adjust the fines as he sees fit,” Padgett said.
Miller then wanted to know where the money paid would go if he and his fellow liquor board members became the judges. Padgett explained that would go in to the language of the legislation the county would have to pass.
“Several counties already share enforcement. We would be the first to share the revenue of citations,” she said.
Miller liked the sound of that.
“We’re certainly interested,” he said, which elicited a “wow” from Padgett.
“Thank you for considering,” she added.