Synthetics Showdown: Part 1

By KBJR News 1

May 13, 2013 Updated May 13, 2013 at 10:17 PM CDT

Moorhead, MN (NNCNOW.com)-- Described as a lifestyle store, 'Discontent' sold whatever was popular in the college town of Moorhead, Minnesota.

"We would sell music, clothing, shoes, skateboards, longboards, and we sold tobacco and tobacco accessories," said owner Tom Tepley.

Then, one day in 2012 the store closed. It was one of five shops in Moorhead that sold the synthetic drug incense. None of those shops sells the products anymore.

"The five businesses are either all out of business [or] they've voluntarily quit or they changed their whole business model, said Moorhead Mayor Mark Voxland. "It's not that we wanted to drive them out of business. We wanted to make sure they were doing their business legally."

The city of Moorhead and its police department tackled what they considered a problem head-on, making it a point to stop sales they considered dangerous for their residents.

When a state law, banning synthetic marijuana went into effect in 2011, authorities took immediate action.

"We copied the law and we took it out to every shop that was selling the materials, gave them a copy of the law, and a letter signed by me saying this law will be in effect July 1st, 2011; we will enforce it," said Moorhead Police Chief Davie Enbinger.

Some of the store that sold incense cooperated and complied with the synthetics statue after it went into affect, and ceased selling incense.

Chief Ebinger's investigators made undercover buys at three of the shops that sold incense. County attorneys went after the store owners aggressively and the sales stopped at those shops.

Shortly after the state synthetics ban went into effect, the city of Moorhead took a hard stance against another item sold at the area head shops; a controversial ordinance banning smoking paraphernalia.

"We copied the ordinance, we met with them, and we told them we would have detectives come in and go over their inventory with them," said Chief Enbinger.

"They understood that we were going to tolerate, we were going to follow the letter of the law." said Mayor Voxland.

Discontent owner Tom Tepley grew tired of fighting the city of Moorhead, and turned his lifestyle store into a store that makes customized t-shirts.

"I spent so much money on attorneys, it just wasn't worth it to me," said Tepley. "part of the problem with me is I'm 60 years old. Why the hell would I want to do this anymore?"

But, the idea of selling incense again in Moorhead has crossed his mind a time or two.

"It's a difficult story because nobody knows what's legal and what's not legal," said Tepley. "Everyone has to make their own choices. That's it, end of story. I chose to, Jim chooses to. That's the way it works."

He's talking about Jim Carlson, the owner of Last Place on Earth and he says he's watching how much money is being made in Duluth. At times he says he wonders if he made the right decision, for now, however, Moorhead's Discontent remains closed.

Zach Vavricka

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