Designer Drug Ban Targets Payson Stores

Spice will remain legal to use and possess — but not to sell in town

Photo by Dennis Fendler. |

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Three local businesses that continue to sell synthetic drugs despite weeks of community protests will have to remove the products from their shelves on Sunday when a Payson ordinance takes effect.

The law bans the sale of “intentionally misused” products by retailers, but does not make it illegal to possess or use the products.

Police Chief Don Engler praised the council for taking quick action to ban the sale of the products, which state legislators have struggled to ban altogether.

On Monday, Payson officers will visit each store to make sure the products, commonly known as “spice” and “potpourri,” are gone, Engler said.

The ban covers all products labeled “not for human consumption” at the One Stop, Wear This and Payson Marketplace.

The police department is sending letters to each business this week notifying owners of the change. So far, none of the owners have reacted to the news while community response has “been overwhelmingly supportive,” Engler said.

Several people, including members of the Payson Tea Party, have taken to street corners to protest the sale of the designer drugs.

Community outrage in Pine was enough for the owner of one gas station to pull the product weeks ago.

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Supporters of the ban say the drugs are dangerous and have already sent several people to the hospital. Critics maintain no studies have proven that use of the unregulated packets of synthetic drugs has side effects.

However, in recent months reports of individuals reacting negatively to the products have made headlines locally. One teen reportedly passed out in a store after smoking the compound and another juvenile nearly threw up on an officer in the park.

Engler said he has heard from many parents that their child tried the designer drugs. With the products legal for anyone to buy, more and more juveniles appear to be trying it, he said.

“There have been so many stories from parents about the difficulty it has created for the whole family when they have a young person involved with these drugs,” he said. “It is just a shame.”

Engler believes with the products no longer available in town, use will go down, although he admits the product can still be bought elsewhere.

“I think it will make it more difficult to get,” he said. “It will take planning ... it is more than just walking into a store and making a purchase.”

In recent years, several chemicals used to make the drugs have been banned. In response, manufacturers have altered the chemical makeup of the drugs to circumvent the law.

Payson is taking a different approach, Engler said.

Instead of banning the product itself, the town is going after retailers.

The ordinance focuses on the intent of the seller, meaning although the mix of chemicals and compounds varies, products intentionally used for obtaining a high, hallucinogenic, psychoactive, psychotropic or mind-altering effect, are banned from sale.

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