County adopts synthetic drug regulationsIt’s no longer legal to consume products labeled “not fit for human consumption” anywhere in Douglas County. And anyone who wishes to sell such products — commonly referred to as synthetic drugs — in Douglas County must have a license to do so.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
It’s no longer legal to consume products labeled “not fit for human consumption” anywhere in Douglas County. And anyone who wishes to sell such products — commonly referred to as synthetic drugs — in Douglas County must have a license to do so.
The Douglas County Board on Thursday adopted new ordinances similar to those adopted by the cities of Duluth and Superior to curb potential problems before they start.
“Both were drafted as a means to deal with the growing crisis of synthetic drug use,” said Corporate Counsel Carolyn Pierce. She said there are federal and state bans that prohibit use, but distributors have been able to stay ahead of prosecution by changing the formulation.
State legislation is under consideration to close that gap, Pierce said, but the ordinance prohibiting use isn’t defined by the chemical makeup of products such as synthetic marijuana or bath salts. One ordinance creates a fine up to $500 for consuming or aiding in the consumption of a product that is hazardous to humans.
The other would require any business planning to sell the products to get a license. The ordinance establishes zoning rules, defines hours of operation and requires products to be listed with ingredients when sold as synthetic drugs. Failure to meet the license requirements are cause for revocation, and once revoked, any further sales are illegal.
The ordinance mirrors regulations adopted by the cities of Duluth and Superior, Pierce said.
The Douglas County Board would decide whether licenses would be granted or revoked.
“I think we should send a clear and unified message they’re not welcome here,” Supervisor Terry White said.
“We’ve been asked by the sheriff’s department to pass this onto the county board,” said Supervisor Nick Baker, chairman of the Public Safety Committee. “If we don’t write a law, it may open the door for a lot of things to happen in the county before you can take control of it, like what happened in Duluth. They’re having the same problem in Ashland, and so the concern is that we were trying to be ahead of what’s happening out there.”
Supervisor Kay Johnson said it’s important the board move ahead with the ordinances now.
“If we wait too long, it will be too late,” Johnson said. “These things sneak up on you. Ashland is having quite a time with this.”
Supervisor Larry Quam suggested amending the ordinance to ensure established businesses would be required to hold a license; however, the board adopted the ordinance unchanged because it’s not believed there are shops in Douglas County at this time.
“We can always amend things later, but I think we need to move ahead with this now,” Johnson said.
“We’re treading in new water; there may be things we need to adjust later, but it’s not enough of a reason not to enact the (ordinance), said Supervisor Sue Hendrickson.
Supervisor Charlie Glazman suggested the county should look into its ability to tax the product.
Chairman Doug Finn said the county’s heard from local units of government seeking county action to regulate synthetic drugs.
Supervisor Dan Conley questioned the lack of a fiscal note on the ordinance. “It seems to me there might be more people sitting in our jail if we’re going to make this illegal,” Conley said.
Supervisor Mark Liebaert said the goal is to avoid the problems Duluth had with the Last Place on Earth.
“We enthusiastically support this,” Liebaert said. “One of the problems is if a shop established over here like Duluth, there would be a big fiscal impact to that with break-ins and law enforcement. I think by getting out ahead of it, we can prevent something that happened like in Duluth.”