The Payson Police Department will move immediately to block the sale of “spice” and other synthetic drugs in accordance with an emergency ordinance adopted Thursday night by the town council, said Police Chief Don Engler.
Engler asked the town council to include an emergency clause in the adoption of an ordinance banning the sale of “intentionally misused” products, so he would not have to wait the normal 30 days before moving to enforce the new law.
Engler said he would immediately send letters to the One Stop on Highway 87, Payson Marketplace across from the bowling alley and Wear This between Safeway and Radio Shack, the three outlets in town now selling the synthetic drugs.
“We have checked all three locations and they continue to sell them,” Engler told the council Thursday night.
The letter will warn the businesses that the new law will take effect in 30 days and that it applies to several products labeled “not for human consumption” that have become popular recreational drugs.
The town’s ordinance focuses on the intentions of the merchant rather than the components of the packets.
“We’re trying something I’m unaware of anyone else trying,” said Payson Town Attorney Tim Wright, “but we have to do something.”
The mixtures contain things like a synthetic version of the active compound in marijuana thought to produce the characteristic high. The packet’s labeling helps the sellers evade regulations on products with no other purpose than getting high.
Residents have picketed several of the places in Payson and Pine that sell the small packets of synthetic drugs. Some outlets stopped stocking the packets after the picketers showed up, but three outlets in Payson continue to stock the drugs, said Engler.
Critics say that no one really knows the side effects of regular use of the unregulated packets of synthetic drugs. One Payson teen recently passed out in a local store after consuming “spice.” He recovered and paramedics took him to the hospital for a checkup. Police say they have collected reports of bizarre behavior after teens use the drugs.
The state Legislature this session quickly adopted a law banning some of the mixtures, but Wright said the drug makers could evade such content-based laws by simply changing the mix of ingredients.
The Payson ordinance adopted unanimously Thursday night would instead focus on the intent of the seller, which means it could ban a wide variety of synthetic drugs even if the actual mix of chemicals and compounds varies.
The ordinance prohibits the sale, display or possession for sale of “products intentionally misused for obtaining a high, hallucinogenic, psychoactive, psychotropic or mind-altering effect.”
That would include designer drugs being sold under the names “bath salts” and “potpourri.”
To justify the council’s legal authority to adopt an ordinance that would normally fall under the responsibility of agencies such as the state Legislature, Congress, the Drug Enforcement Administration or the Federal Food and Drug Administration, the authorizing resolution cited a town’s legal authority to adopt laws to prevent or suppress disease, regulate markets and marketplaces and ensure order.
The new ordinance defined “intentional misuse” of a product as the “consumption, ingestion, smoking or other introduction into the human body for the purpose of obtaining a high, hallucinogenic, psychoactive, psychotropic or other mind-altering effects.
The ordinance also tackled the potentially tricky question of proving whether a store owner actually knows people “intentionally misuse” a given product.
The law stated “if an employee of the federal, state, county or local government acting in his/her official capacity provides a person with information documenting the common intentional misuse of a product, such person shall be deemed to know or have reason to know of the common intentional misuse of the product.”
Wright said the ordinance will give the police department a legal basis on which to act.
“It keeps getting on the front page of the newspaper — so it seems like something should happen,” said Wright.