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Stories Added - July 2010
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Council bans fake marijuana
Polk County Enterprise
BY VALERIE REDDELL
LIVINGSTON — Livingston City Council members unanimously passed an ordinance making the use, possession, purchase, sale, display, attempted sale or barter of synthetic marijuana. The ordinance makes it a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $2,000 for any of the prohibited activities or possession of paraphernalia used in the ingestion of the banned substances. The ordinance applies to synthetic cannabinoids or salvia divinorum currently marketed as “K-2”, “Genie” Dascents”, “Zohai:, “Sage”, “Spice”, KO Knock-Out 2”, “Yucutan Fire”, “Fire ‘n Ice”, “Diablo”, “Skunk”, “Sence” as well as “Salvina Divinorum”. During the discussion of the ordinance, City Manager Marilyn Sutton told the council that the Livingston Police Department first became aware that synthetic marijuana was being sold at local convenience stores. City Attorney Gaffney Phillips drafted the ordinance that prohibits the smoking blend of herbs and spices that are sprayed with a substance meant to mimic marijuana. It is usually smoked in much the same way as marijuana, but K-2 is much more potent, according to the city attorney. The Livingston ordinance does not list a specific chemical composition, but includes broader definitions of the synthetics and salvia plant. The ordinance refers to reports from the National Drug Intelligence Center that K-2 has caused hallucinations, vomiting, agitation, panic attacks, dangerously rapid heart rates, seizures and other serious health problems. The ordinance includes all parts of the salvia divinorum or Salvinorum A plant as well as extracts, salts, seeds or other derivatives as well as all synthetic cannabinoids or mimicking compounds, or substances containing the HU-210 compound. HU-210 is a synthetic compound developed by researchers during the study of the affects of marijuana (cannabinoids) on the brain. The ordinance exempts use under the direction or prescription of a licensed physician or dentist or for religious observances under some circumstances. Persons acting under the direction of a law enforcement officer acting to ensure compliance with the law are also not in violation of the ordinance, it reads. Mayor Clarke Evans asked if what kind of authority law enforcement offices would have to look in “secret drawers” or other areas that may not be in plain view in a store. Phillips answered that existing search and seizure rules would apply. A typical enforcement method would be to have an informant go in and purchase something that’s not allowed under the ordinance. Misdemeanor charges would follow against the store and/ or employee if such a sale is made. To get access to hidden compartments, an officer would have to go before a judge and establish probable cause, just as they currently do in other narcotic cases. Councilman Bill Wiggins asked Lt. Matt Parrish of the Livingston Police Department if he is seeing a lot of usage. Parrish said he has talked with several teenagers who are aware of K-2 although none have admitted using it. “They are staying sold out at one of the stores here that’s selling it,” Parrish added. Mayor Pro Tem Elgin Davis asked how officers would identify the synthetics. Parrish answered that he is confident store owners will remove the product as soon as the law takes effect. Officers will visit each of the stores and explain the new ordinance to them. Beyond that, officers may conduct “sting” operations similar to those used to monitor compliance with alcohol and tobacco laws. Otherwise, officers will look for packaging bearing known street names for synthetics. “If it’s just in a plastic bag, it’s hard to tell. We’ll have to talk to the DPS lab and see if they will test for it. Other than that, we’ll go by what it’s purported to be when they sold it,” Parrish said. In response to questions about paraphernalia, the city attorney said the same rules would apply as for marijuana paraphernalia. The Health and Safety Code defines anything used to ingest, manufacture or harvest it. Their have been successful prosecutions for everything from plastic bags, rolling papers and clips to hold cigarettes. Parrish added the District Attorney Lee Hon asked him to convey his support of the ordinance to the council and his office is researching a possible ordinance for the county as a whole. The Texas Legislature is expected to debate a statewide ban on synthetics, but such a law would probably not be in effect until September 2011. Ordinance have recently been passed in Allen, Jasper and Mansfield. The Mansfield ordinance prohibits the sale or possession by anyone under the age of 21 or in close proximity to schools or other protected areas.