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Ross: 'K.O. K-2'

Superior Police Chief Floyd Peters tells a crowd of reporters that synthetic marijuana hasn't been an issue for officers in Superior but he appreciates the city's effort to ban it before it becomes a problem. City Attorney Frog Prell, left, drafted the ordinance, and Mayor Dave Ross and Council President Bob Finsland, right, will present the ban to the council Tuesday for consideration. (Shelley Nelson)

Superior could join a growing number of local and state governments taking action to ban a synthetically induced high.

Council President Bob Finsland and Police Chief Floyd Peters plan to present the council with a new ordinance banning the use, possession, sale and distribution of synthetic cannibinoid products like K-2, Spice, Genie and Yucatan Fire.

Superior Mayor Dave Ross said after talking to a distributor of the products this week who wants to warehouse and distribute synthetic marijuana in Superior, the mayor wants to expedite the process to ban the product.

Ross said when the distributor told him the product was so profitable that he would be willing to set up shop for the 30-60 days it would take to adopt the ordinance, he decided to ask the City Council to bypass its normal committee process to expedite passage of a ban.

"Government works slowly for a reason, so we don't do something irrational," Ross said. "But there are times government needs to move with great speed. And I think this is one of those times we need to react as quickly as possible."

Ross said he views the distribution of synthetic marijuana as an imminent threat to the community, particularly youth, now that Duluth's City Council - the first in Minnesota - adopted a similar ordinance Monday.

Superior's ordinance is modeled after one adopted by the City Council in Eau Claire, Wis., in July. Ross said the one adopted in Duluth didn't go far enough.

City Attorney Frog Prell said he's studied a number of ordinances, including Duluth's, but was most impressed with the one adopted in Eau Claire. He put the final touches on Superior's ordinance Wednesday afternoon.

Under the ordinance, it would be illegal to use, possess, transport, purchase, attempt to purchase, sell, publically display for sale or attempt to sell, give away, trade or barter the herbal products treated with a variety of chemicals to produce a high similar to tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive substance found in marijuana. The ordinance provides an exception for use under direction or prescription of a physician, dentist or other medical care provider authorized to prescribe pharmaceuticals.

Fines for violations of the city ordinance would range from $100 to $500, but don't include court fees that would drive those costs higher, Prell said.

The city attorney said it's unclear what kind of penalty could be enforced under state law if intoxicated use of the substances resulted in a traffic stop or accident because Wisconsin has no similar prohibition of synthetic marijuana products.

Legislation to address the issue statewide hasn't been introduced, said Bill Cosh, a spokesman with the Wisconsin Attorney General's Office. However, he said, state crime lab personnel have testified before legislative committees concerning synthetic marijuana in recent months.

According to the New York Times, eight states had banned the products as of July 10, after Missouri's Gov. Jay Nixon signed a law prohibiting its use. Kansas, Kentucky, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, Iowa and Arkansas adopted similar laws and similar legislation is pending in New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan and Ohio.

State Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Cottage Grove, plans to introduce legislation to ban the product in Minnesota.

Ross said he's disappointed Wisconsin hasn't reacted quicker to the problem but he learned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration isn't likely to get to it for another year.

Peters said synthetic marijuana hasn't been a big issue for his department to date, but he does appreciate the proactive response to what could be a growing problem for his officers.

Superior already has a reputation as a party town, one the city has taken steps to curb in recent years.

Finsland, a member of the council in 2004 when liquor licenses were revoked from troublesome bars, said he's in favor of legislation that doesn't add to the strain on the city's police department. And he believes synthetic marijuana, like other drugs, could add to that burden.