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Kingsport OKs ban on synthetic drugs

December 6th, 2011 10:53 pm by Matthew Lane

KINGSPORT — Mayor Dennis Phillips said in about 10 days the Kingsport Police Department is going to be busy in every business in town that sells synthetic marijuana and bath salts, now that a new ban has been approved by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

The BMA gave final approval Tuesday night on a synthetic drug ban within the city limits. The ban goes into effect in 10 days, with violators facing a $50 fine for the sale, possession, manufacture and transport of such products as synthetic marijuana and bath salts.

Synthetic marijuana — marketed as “K2” or “Spice” — is a chemical that is applied to herbal substances, incense or potpourri and smoked to mimic marijuana, but with a stronger hallucinogenic reaction. Some users have experienced strokes and seizures.

Bath salts are sold in powder form under various brand names and produce an effect similar to methamphetamine.

Law enforcement and the medical community say the substances are dangerous, and Phillips has vowed to drive the “head shops” selling the products out of business, even saying he would welcome a lawsuit challenging the new ordinance.

During Tuesday’s BMA meeting, Josh Stanton of Kingsport, co-owner of a smoke shop, asked city leaders how to identify and dispose of banned products properly. Stanton has attended two previous BMA meetings and spoken out against the ban, calling it vague and difficult to enforce.

“You can have a bonfire and burn them, flush them down the commode or send them back to China to whoever sold them to you,” Phillips said. “You’ve had ample time from the first reading and have 10 days after the ordinance is passed. I expect our police department to be busy in every business in the city (that sells these products).”

The penalty for violating the ban is a $50 civil penalty — not a criminal one — and is the maximum amount allowed under state law. Phillips said Kingsport is going to do its best to make every separate package be a separate offense.

“It’s my understanding and (District Attorney General Barry Staubus) has told me that there are businesses selling this stuff making $10,000 per day,” Phillips said. “We must have the best smelling city in the world.”

Barbara Brown of Kingsport, who routinely attends the BMA meetings, offered a heart-felt plea to Stanton and the six other young men sitting with him in the audience.

“I look at these young gentlemen ... you have your whole life ahead of you. I think these guys are intelligent and could really go places, but there’s only one place you can go when you go down the path of selling and using drugs,” Brown said. “I don’t want that to happen to you, and I hope you come to the conclusion that your life is important to not only you but so many others.

“God is good, and he will help you find the right path.”

The BMA approved the ban with a 6-0 vote. Alderwoman Valerie Joh was unable to attend Tuesday’s meeting.

During a public forum on synthetic drugs Monday evening, Staubus said a movement is afoot for Tennessee to adopt a statute similar to that in Virginia, banning and criminalizing all substances intended to imitate or mimic the affects of an illegal drug.

Tennessee attempted to ban synthetic drugs earlier this year, prohibiting certain ingredients used in their production. Manufacturers then simply tweaked the chemical makeup to skirt around legislation, keeping their products on store shelves.

The number of specialty shops and convenience stores selling synthetic drugs in Sullivan County is not known. New sellers are popping up, expanding or relocating on a regular basis.

In other business Tuesday night, the BMA recognized the Sullivan North High School football team and Coach Robbie Norris for the team’s undefeated 2011 regular season. North finished the season 12 and 1. Phillips congratulated the team and declared today as Sullivan North Golden Raider Day in Kingsport.

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