MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

May 20, 2013

Officials seek to snuff out fake pot

Synthetic drugs could fall under ‘public nuisance blanket’

City officials will pitch an emergency ordinance to list synthetic drugs as a public nuisance at tonight’s Muskogee Public Works and Finance committee meeting.

Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics spokesman Mark Woodward said the “public nuisance blanket” has been an effective way to battle the growing synthetic drug problem.

“We’re very optimistic,” Woodward said. “Several cities are looking at a public nuisance ordinance. We’re optimistic this is the way to go.”

Muskogee Assistant City Attorney Matthew Beese said seven or eight months of preparation have gone into the ordinance, which the Public Works and Finance Committee will vote on tonight.

“We can’t make something illegal, so we’ve tried to figure out a way to address this,” Beese said.

Synthetic “marijuana,” is often a grassy substance sprayed with chemical compounds meant to imitate the effects of a marijuana high. However, Beese said, as certain compounds are made illegal by the state, the chemicals get further and further from their desired effect.

“It’s not a cool, calm demeanor like you’d see with marijuana,” Beese said. “It’s PCP, that’s what it’s like. They keep changing the compounds to get around the law, and it just gets more and more dangerous.”

Beese said an Oklahoma statute empowers the city to determine “what is and what shall constitute” a nuisance for the protection of public health.

According to the proposed ordinance, at least four Muskogee stores are “engaged in the sale of herbal incense products.” If passed, first-time violators would face a $100 fine. Second-time violators would be fined $300. For a third and subsequent violation, the fine is $500.

The fines, Beese said, would apply to individuals and businesses. Under the ordinance, the city would have the authority to seize the products for testing, Beese said.

“If something is seized and tested, and it comes back a controlled substance, it’s no longer a fine, it becomes a felony controlled dangerous substance charge,” Beese said.

If the ordinance passes, it would then be put to a vote at the Muskogee City Council meeting on Tuesday. If passed there, it would “take effect immediately upon its passage, approval and publication.”

Woodward said it has been argued before that a city ordinance making a “blanket ban” of synthetic drugs would have to cover things like paint thinner, a synthesized substance that can produce a high.

“My argument to that would be, paint thinner has a specific purpose, it has a legitimate use,” Beese said. “These synthetic drugs do not.”

If you go

WHAT: Muskogee Public Works and Finance committee regular meetings.

WHEN: 4 p.m. Tuesday.

WHERE: City Council Chambers, third floor, Muskogee Municipal Building, 229 W. Okmulgee Ave.

ON TV: Broadcast live on Suddenlink Channel 14.

 

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