The Morehead News

Local News

November 18, 2011

Fiscal Court introduces ordinance to ban synthetic drugs

Nov. 18, 2011 —     Rowan Fiscal Court launched the latest salvo Tuesday in the battle against substance abuse in this community. It’s also issuing a clarion call for community support.

    A new ordinance introduced in Fiscal Court takes aim at the recent influx of synthetic drugs that have shown up at least one local business and are suspected to be sold elsewhere in the county.

    Ordinance 1811 passed first reading, and would prohibit the sale, possession or delivery of a variety of synthetic drugs currently sold in Rowan County.

    Violations could be punished as a Class A misdemeanor which includes up to 12 months of jail time and/or a fine of up to $500.

    Among those drugs is synthetic marijuana, a mixture of chemicals sprayed over plants that produce a “high” when smoked. A recent incident at the high school underscored the problem when two students were taken to the emergency room when they got sick after smoking the fake weed.

    County officials also said that bath salts, another product that can be abused to get high, is still being sold, albeit in a reformulated state. Other products that produce a high are sold in the county as well.

    “I’ve seen them sold with my own eyes,” said

    County Attorney Cecil Watkins. He said the 801 Eagle Truck Stop sells such products, and he’s been told that underage customers can buy them with impunity.

    “I had a police officer who told me that he was in full uniform when he observed the products being sold to teens,” Watkins said.

    According to the ordinance, “these products are marketed as potpourri, incense, bath salts, and/or plant food, as well as other unnamed purposes,” and are classified by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration as Schedule I controlled substances.

    The synthetics are packaged and sold in a various quantities, from one to seven grams in weight and can be packaged in foil-lined envelopes, plastic containers and

    Watkins said he and Dana Quesinberry, Drug Free Communities Project Coordinator and UNITE Coalition member, have been working for months to bring forth a “good, solid ordinance that has teeth”.

    “Dana and I have done a lot of research about the dangers of these synthetic drugs,” Watkins said. “It’s becoming an epidemic around here and causing a lot of health problems.”

    Quesinberry said they researched similar ordinances in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, and also consulted with the Kentucky Regional Poison Control Center to identify and describe the chemicals and effects of the synthetic drugs.

    “I think it came together quite nicely, and I expect we will be able to stop the sale and distribution and push it out of Rowan County,” she said.

    “Hopefully, we can start a movement among other counties in our region so that as it leaves our county it doesn’t go to theirs.”

    Rowan Judge-Executive Jim Nickell said the county is already moving in that direction.

    “I will be passing this ordinance to all surrounding counties and requesting their fiscal courts take appropriate action to address this problem,” Nickell said.

    Watkins said the ordinance will likely have to be revised as time goes on and as companies that manufacture the synthetic drugs reformulate products to stay ahead of regulations.

    “The manufacturers can stay one step ahead of the federal government by reformulating the drugs. That’s why I believe the county can move much more swiftly and effectively to put a stop to this,” said Watkins.

    Magistrate Darrell Glover said he doesn’t patronize the truck stop anymore since learning of the sale of synthetics there.

    “I flat out won’t go there and I encourage all of my constituents to do the same,” Glover said.

    Magistrate Harry Clark said the county needs the active support of the community in helping enforce the ordinance once it’s enacted.

    “This ordinance has the full support of the Fiscal Court and I hope the people of the community will give us and law enforcement the support by identifying and reporting the places where it’s being sold,” Clark said.

    Members of the Fiscal Court seemed quite certain that the ordinance will be passed on second reading.

    If it does, Watkins said it will distinguish Rowan County as one of only two counties in the state who have ordinances banning the sale, distribution and possession of a host of synthetic drugs. McCracken County recently passed a similar law.

    A second reading of the ordinance will be held Monday, Nov. 28, at 8 a.m. in Rowan Fiscal Court.

    In other business, the Court:

    • Changed its meeting time from 9 a.m. to 8 a.m. Nickell said that the business of the Court continues to grow, requiring more time for officials to manage the affairs of the county.

    • Voted to designate the road leading to the regional aviation business park as “Rodney Hitch Drive” in recognition of the former economic development director’s efforts to bring the project to fruition

    • Appointed Josh Trent and Lee Jackson to the Extension Board and re-appointed Robert Barton and Rodney Hitch to the Recreation Board.

    • Held first reading of an ordinance amending the administrative code to specify that drug testing occurs at St. Claire Regional Medical Center and not the Rowan County Health Center as previously stipulated.

    • Received proposals from two agents for county health insurance. The proposals were passed to the health insurance review committee.

    Noelle Hunter can be reached at nhunter@themoreheadnews.com or by telephone at 784-4116.

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