Buchanan City Council has passed a tough new ordinance aimed at illicit drugs, targeting not only dangerous “synthetic marijuana,” but also various types of paraphernalia associated with drug use.
The ordinance, which is now in effect, takes aim at various products sold at convenience stores and gas stations under such brand names as Spice, K-2, Genie, Zohai and others. The chemicals used in such products were addressed last month in a state law that was signed by Gov. Nathan Deal. However, the city’s ordinance goes much further than the state law by prohibiting various types of smoking paraphernalia usually associated with illicit drugs.
Merchants caught selling products with the banned chemicals will be subject to felony citation, according to Buchanan Police Chief Tracy Lambert. Those found selling the banned paraphernalia could be subject to losing any license issued by the city, including business licenses or alcohol sales permits.
The ordinance, introduced at Tuesday’s meeting, passed unanimously on a 3-0 vote, according to City Clerk Karen King. On Wednesday, Chief Lambert and Mayor Benjamin Biggers visited each of the city’s businesses to acquaint them with the new ordinance.
“They have all been 100 percent cooperative,” Lambert reported.
A similar ordinance was passed Monday by the Carrollton City Council and is currently pending before the Haralson County Commission. Lambert said he had been contacted by several surrounding communities, including the Atlanta area, to come to speak to local governing bodies interested in similar action.
The problem of synthetic marijuana was first raised in Haralson County by Bremen resident Lance Dyer, whose 14-year-old son died after using a product similar to those targeted by the ordinance. However, the issue has long concerned law enforcement because of a number of deaths and serious mental episodes associated with the products. Users considered them a “legal high” in that the products could be bought legally and, while producing a “high” similar to marijuana, could not be detected under standard tests.
Previous legislation had sought to ban the chemicals used to make the products, but manufacturers simply substituted new chemicals. The law signed last month by Gov. Deal swiftly passed through the Legislature and closed that loophole by adding more chemicals to the banned list. The bill was nicknamed “Chase’s Law” after a Peachtree City youth who accidently drowned after using one of the products.
Dyer has gone before several governing bodies in west Georgia advocating local ordinances that would go further than “Chase’s Law” by banning drug paraphernalia. Over the past month, attorneys for the local communities have worked to draft ordinances that would do just that.
Lambert said that Buchanan’s ordinance does not ban all smoking paraphernalia – just those items which are normally associated with smoking illegal drugs. He said the ordinance uses a “reasonable person test” – that is, it allows such items that a “reasonable person” would associate with smoking tobacco, a legal product, but disallow items associated with illegal products.
According to the ordinance the banned “ingestion devices” include:
1) Metal, wooden, acrylic, glass, stone, plastic or ceramic pipe with or without screens, permanent screens, hashish heads or punctured metal bowls;
2) Water pipes;
3) Carburetion tubes or devices;
4) Smoking and carburetion masks;
5) Roach clips: meaning objects used to hold burning material, such as marijuana cigarette, that has become too small or too short to be held in the hand;
6) Chamber pipes;
7) Carburetor pipes;
8) Electric pipes;
9) Air driven pipes;
12) Ice pipes or chillers;
13) Glass tubes that are hollow, cylindrical items made of glass which are smaller then three-quarters of an inch in diameter, shorter than 12 inches in length, and which are not sealed with glass at both ends.
The ordinance makes it illegal for any person to use, possess, sell, display or offer to sell any of the products defined by the law. Charges arising from synthetic marijuana will be tried in Superior Court, Lambert said. Merchants found with the banned paraphernalia will have those products seized and made to answer before the city’s licensing panels, which could then revoke the appropriate permit.