Council passes synthetic marijuana ordinance

By Christina Calloway

PNT senior writer

ccalloway@pntonline.com

The Portales City Council passed an ordinance Tuesday night that prohibits the sale and possession of synthetic marijuana.

Lonnie Berry, speaker for the Portales Citizens Against Synthetic Drugs, praised the council for proposing the ordinance and told councilors they had the support of the community to pass it during the public hearing for the ordinance.

“We as a group of citizens have realized this is no magic bullet, but it is an important step,” said Berry of the ordinance.

He brought a petition with more than 600 community signatures to show the council the community’s support.

“We strongly encourage you pass this ordinance,” Berry told the councilors.

After the public hearing was closed, the council voted in favor of the ordinance.

The ordinance was already in the works, but was thrust toward the council’s recent agendas after several Portales students were hospitalized after consuming synthetic drugs in September.

The ordinance targets all synthetic and misbranded drugs, which often have the street names of “spice” or “bath salts.”

“Although often marked ‘not for human consumption,’ or labeled as otherwise innocuous products … these products are in fact designed, marketed to the buyer and intended to be used as products that act upon and affect the human body and its systems to get the user ‘high’ or achieve the narcotic effects of illegal narcotic drugs,” the ordinance read.

Violators of the ordinance can be charged with a petty misdemeanor and local law enforcement agencies have said this will be another tool officers can use to prosecute people using or selling synthetic drugs.

Berry said his group plans to do their part by educating parents about the drugs and sending prayer groups to the local schools.

A notice of intent was approved by the council for a second ordinance that would require a business to lose its license if caught selling synthetic drugs three times in a period of two years.

If a business owner or operator violates the ordinance, they will lose their license and will be unable to operate any business, sell, dispense or distribute any products or goods within the city for one year from the date of the third violation, per the ordinance.

The public hearing for the second ordinance is set for November.

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