Getting in front of a public health, safety issue

  • Saturday, March 1, 2014 5:59pm
  • Opinion

The Soldotna City Council is considering a ban on synthetic drugs, including spice and bath salts.

The new city code would make it illegal to posses, use, sell or manufacture any illicit synthetic drug and while the city’s police chief Peter Mlynarik says there are currently no businesses marketing the drug in Soldotna, it’s a good idea to get ahead of the curve on these unregulated and volatile substances.

Anchorage police have long been battling smoke shops and gas stations that sell spice, often marketed as potpourri or incense, and the problem is on the rise with reports of comatose and psychotic behavior among some users.

Spice isn’t new in this area, but it has been difficult to regulate in Anchorage and other municipalities as manufacturers often change the ingredients.

According to Drug Enforcement Administration spice is a mixture of herbs and spices sprayed with a synthetic compound chemically similar to THC — the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. The compounds can induce paranoia, panic attacks and giddiness, according to DEA data.

The compounds are tough to identify as field test kits for illegal chemicals contained in spice are not yet available and police departments have to send the compounds to the state’s crime lab — which can be time consuming.

While banning a substance certainly will not stop people from using it, there will be limitations on access and it’s a good idea to keep it off of store shelves and out of reach of teens in the area looking for a easy-to-reach alternative to illegal drugs like marijuana or heroin.

The new code would include a $500 fine for illicit synthetic drugs and another $500 fine for the sale of drugs not marketed for public consumption, similar to Anchorage’s recently enacted ban.

Hopefully the move will keep the compound from embedding itself as firmly into the drug culture as it has in larger cities in the state.

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