Grand Rapids City Council To Consider Ban On Synthetic Drugs

By KBJR News 1

September 29, 2010 Updated Sep 29, 2010 at 1:49 PM CDT

Itasca County's Sheriff is urging Grand Rapids city councilors to consider a ban on synthetic marijuana.

According to our partners at the Grand Rapids Herald Review, Itasca County Sheriff Pat Medure spoke to the Grand Rapids City Council during its Monday afternoon work session, along with Grand Rapids Police Chief Jim Denny, officials from state and county probation and officials from the Grand Rapids school district to address a possible ordinance banning synthetic marijuana.

Denny told the council that synthetic marijuana has been in the news lately and he was asked by one of the council members to bring the topic to a work session.

The cities of Duluth and Superior have recently passed an ordinance banning the product.

Denny explained that synthetic marijuana is similar to marijuana, but the synthetic variety is sprayed with an oil-based substance and sold as incense.

One business in Grand Rapids sells the product.

The state sheriffs association and the state police chiefs association plan on making synthetic marijuana a legislative issue at the state level when the session starts in February, but the question was what to do between now and then.

To have ordinances in all cities across the county and at the county level with the same penalties for the same substances would have the bases covered locally.

Denny said that the synthetic version is not controlled in a laboratory setting, so there is no control on how much and what is added to the product.

Lana Bjorgum, probation supervisor for Itasca County, said one thing they are seeing in probation is the synthetic product is causing hallucinations and is much stronger than marijuana, possibly four times as strong.

Another problem with the synthetic marijuana from the probation side is those who are going through treatment are supposed to be chemical-free, but they're using this substance because it's currently legal.

Sterle said he believed the issue would be addressed at the legislative level, but a state law regulating the substance, if passed, would not take effect until Aug. 1, 2011. He recommended the council set a public hearing during the regular meeting for discussion of the proposed ordinance.

The council would be able to vote on the ordinance following the public hearing, he added.

During the council's regular meeting following the work session, the council set a public hearing to address a draft synthetic marijuana ordinance at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 12.