Mayor, too, wants ban on drug Spice

Published 12:03 pm Thursday, August 26, 2010

Hours after Gov. Haley Barbour said on Wednesday morning he’d ask legislators to approve a statewide ban of Spice, a synthetic marijuana commonly sold as potpourri, Mayor Paul Winfield said he’d like Vicksburg to be the next city to approve a local ban.

“A lot of young people are abusing this… and I do intend at some point in time to bring this board some sort of ordinance banning these substances and the sale of these substances in our community,” Winfield said at the Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting mid-morning Wednesday.

About 15 municipalities in the state, including Southaven, Horn Lake, Ridgeland, Clinton, Pascagoula, Hattiesburg and Ocean Springs, have passed local ordinances banning Spice. Barbour said the statewide ban will be on the agenda of a special called session beginning Friday that also includes $50 million in incentives for a prospective biofuels project.

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City Attorney Lee Davis Thames Jr. said a local ordinance is already in the works because a statewide ban, if approved, might not take effect to upward of a year.

“The idea is to get it off the streets now,” Thames said.

Spice, as well as similar substances going by names such as K2, Demon, Voodoo, Genie and others, are commonly sold at convenience stores and smoke shops. They are all herbal and chemical products typically labled “not for human consumption.” Police Chief Walter Armstrong said his department has already persuaded some Vicksburg shop owners to stop selling the substances.

“But we have others who are still selling it,” Armstrong told the board.

If approved locally, Thames said the ordinance would likely make possession or sale of Spice a misdemeanor. Penalties in most communities that have outlawed Spice call for up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Winfield said the issue could come before the board as soon as its next meeting Tuesday. “When we do pass this ordinance, we are going to enforce it, so if you get caught there are going to be ramifications,” the mayor warned.

Since Southaven and Horn Lake enacted local ordinances June 21, new municipal bans in cities and counties across the state have sprung up on an almost weekly basis. A number of states are considering statewide bans, and eight have already done so. Most countries in Europe — where Spice first appeared in 2004 — have outlawed Spice.

The governor announced Wednesday morning that he was expanding his call for a special session of the Legislature on Friday to include the synthetic marijuana ban.

The plan to add the issue to a session called primarily for discussions of a $50 million biofuels and research project was prompted by requests from state and local law enforcement agencies, he said.