Payson Struggles For Way To Ban Designer Drug Sale

Sale of synthetic marijuana to teens prompts town to consider law that would examine intent of the seller

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The Payson Town Council on Thursday directed Police Chief Don Engler and Town Attorney Tim Wright to come up with an ordinance that will make it possible to ban the sale of synthetic marijuana and other designer drugs like spice.

The council’s move comes in the wake of community protests in front of a handful of Rim Country stores selling spice, a legal mix of compounds including a synthetic version of the active ingredient in marijuana.

Moreover, the state Legislature last week rushed through SB 2356 that would ban some versions of the drugs that have quickly gained wide popularity among teenagers in recent months. Most of the blends are labeled “not for human consumption,” since the health effects of eating or smoking the materials remain unknown and untested.

Anecdotal reports have associated some of the blends with seizures, bizarre behavior and other reactions.

Payson Mayor Kenny Evans said “we have a plan” to draft a law that would focus on whether a store was selling a product labeled “not intended for human use,” which the shop owner knew people were ingesting. Such a law would get around the difficulty of specifying certain ingredients, only to have the drug makers slightly change the ingredients.

“That’s why Payson is going to end up on the cutting edge of this,” said Evans.

The hearing last week simply opened the topic for discussion, with an eye toward developing a local ordinance.

“The purpose of putting this on the agenda was to get it out in the open,” said Wright. “The chief and I are saying — what can we do and how can we address this?”

Community protests have already prompted several stores to stop carrying the mixtures, although they have reported heavy sales and substantial profits.

Chief Engler said he had visited each of the Payson outlets stocking spice — also known as potpourri.

“I’ve visited each one of them locally and gathered the information they have (about the drugs). We’ve also acquired some of the product to test through our laboratory resources as well,” said Engler.

Wright said he didn’t think the new state law would solve the problem, since the drug makers can simply shuffle the ingredients to avoid the strictures of the law.

Chief Engler agreed. “I’ve looked at the state list and it’s not all inclusive.”

“It’s difficult to stop them,” agreed Wright, “but we’ll keep working on it.”

Evans said the police and lawmakers can’t keep up with the shifts — and don’t know nearly as much about what’s out there and where to get it as the teens in the community.

“It’s amazing how much the kids know. They know exactly what’s going on — the parents, not so much,” said Evans.

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