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Local News

December 27, 2011

Court accepts incense ban

Ordinance to prohibit sale approved

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — Kids getting high on “herbal incense” prompted school and law enforcement officials to work together to draw up an ordinance prohibiting the sale and possession of such items within the county.

This ordinance was presented to the Laurel County Fiscal Court members during Tuesday night’s regular monthly meeting and was quickly approved.

Danny Smith, District 2 magistrate, made the motion to accept the ordinance, which was seconded and unanimously approved.

The ordinance will make the sale and possession of synthetic cannabinoids illegal, with those doing so being charged with a Class A misdemeanor. Currently, the items are sold at three local stores and teens are obtaining these substances to smoke as a means of getting high.

Laurel County Sheriff John Root made the presentation of the ordinance before the court and explained that currently stores can sell such items without penalty. Persons can also possess those substances without penalty, although Root did point out that a person under the influence of misusing those substances to get high can fall under the “volatile substance abuse” law and can be charged as such. The problem, however, is that possessing those substances currently has no penalty and is creating a problem in the school system.

Gina Sears, assistant principal at North Laurel High School, and Summer Lewis, mental health counselor at Laurel County Day Treatment, attended Tuesday’s meeting to support the ordinance. Sears said the problem has accelerated over the past year.

“This is not classified as marijuana so there’s nothing we can do (as a school system),” she said. “The effects are much harsher than regular marijuana and can make you very ill. Currently, we have kids working at these stores and selling it to their friends.”

Laurel County Judge- Executive David Westerfield asked for support from the magistrates, stating, “We need to protect our kids.”

Prior to Root’s presentation, Darrell Peters addressed the court, stating that the sale and possession of synthetic cannabinoids had already been prohibited by the Drug Enforcement Agency, making it a Schedule I substance. Possession and sale of these synthetic cannabinoids by that law is a federal felony offense. Peters said the House of Representatives submitted the bill as HR 1254 with the ban of sale and possession of synthetic drugs, which was approved by the House and sent to the Senate for adoption.

Root said that federal law against synthetic drugs passed under the Drug Control Act of 1970 that Peters referred to only included five chemicals and did not include many of those marketed today as ‘herbal incense.” Although the packages of these current synthetic drugs are clearly marked “Not for Human Consumption,” the misuse of these substances are creating problems by misuse and easy access.

“I’m not going to charge a juvenile with a federal crime,” Root told Peters. “But it seems to be a problem and this ordinance is one way to do it.”

Sears added that “several students” who have used the drug told her they thought they were overdosing after using the products.

In fact, one 18-year-old girl overdosed on the synthetic cannabinoid product, Scuby Snax, in September. Three men were arrested when police arrived and found the girl ‘unresponsive’ after using the substance.

As with Kentucky law, an ordinance must have two public readings before being adopted. Tuesday’s night’s reading of the ordinance was the first reading, with the second reading — and adoption of the ordinance as a law — will take place at the January 26 meeting and will become effective immediately.

njohnson@sentinel-echo.com

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