The synthetic marijuana known as Spice is no longer legal in Helper. The city council banned it in an ordinance passed unanimously Thursday.
The new law goes into effect on Nov. 19, but the product was promised to be gone from the shelves at Handy Mart by Monday morning. "The distributor told me it was legal, so I told him I would stock it. But now that it's illegal, it's gone," said proprietor Cindy Jaques. She said the removal would not hurt revenue at the Main Street store much.
Concern about the mixture has been growing nationwide because it produces the same effect as real marijuana but with potential hallucinogenic effects. Spice is also branded as K-2, Black Mamba, Puff or Sugar Sticks but all these products have the same basic composition: a mixture of aromatic herbs and spices, laced with a synthetic cannabinoid.
Cannabis is the active ingredient in pot. Unlike the organic weed, the synthetics can be more highly concentrated. The designer drug also lacks some of the natural anti-hallucinogens of marijuana, according to some reports. This has reportedly led to cases of bad craziness in some users.
Several other Utah cities have already banned Spice, as have the Armed Forces.
The attraction of Spice is that it is not yet outlawed by the state or federal governments. It also does not show up in urinalysis so routine drug screening will not catch it. The Utah Legislature may consider a law banning the substance at its next session.
"The substance" is not an entirely correct way of describing Spice and similar products. Since these are synthetic compounds, it's not difficult for a chemist to alter bits and pieces of a molecule to produce a chemical with a new structure and a new name. For that reason, the Helper ordinance names 10 separate pounds, one natural plant (Salvia divinorum), and has two catch-all provisions banning any new chemicals related to the ones mentioned.
Police Chief Trent Anderson said the absence of regulation has been a problem. Technically, a middle-school student could buy the stuff because it is not illegal to buy incense. Ms. Jaques emphasized that she had not sold Spice to anyone under 19 years old.