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In a unanimous vote Tuesday, Davis County Health Board members became the latest Utah local government to ban the sale, possession and use of spice.
Spice incense laced with synthetic cannabinoids or other mind-altering chemicals is currently a hot commodity at smoke shops and convenience stores, sold under product names such as Black Mamba, Ocean Breeze and Bombay Blue. When smoked, it provides a marijuana-like high.
In many places, minors can purchase spice. But by the end of October, Davis County shops will no longer carry it.
"We'll give them fair notice to clear the shelves," said Davis Health Director Lewis Garrett, adding, "the sooner the better."
The regulation takes effect immediately, but Garrett meets with mayors from each of Davis County's 15 cities on Wednesday. From there, notices will be sent to police chiefs and all law enforcement agencies in the county to decide when the crackdown begins.
A first violation would be a class B misdemeanor, a subsequent violation within two years would be a class A misdemeanor.
Davis County's ban comes on the heels of Bear River Health District taking similar action earlier this month, sweeping spice from the market in Box Elder, Cache and Rich counties.
Because of the multiplicity of synthetic drugs that can be sprayed on incense, the Davis County prohibition includes broad language, extending the ban to substances that "bind to cannabinoid receptors in the brain."
Several Utah cities have enacted spice ordinances, including Ogden in Weber County, and Davis County's Layton and Kaysville.
Garrett said that the county-wide health regulation does not conflict with recent municipal actions, giving police officers a choice as to which to enforce in a given circumstance.
Utah's lawmakers are poised to enact a state-wide statute in early 2011, which will supersede the county's health regulation.
"I've been approached by various law enforcement officers who say this is a challenge in their communities," said Davis County Commissioner and Health Board member Bret Millburn. "They've asked us to put a stop-gap measure in place it's hard to stay ahead of the curve."
Spice is a problem nationwide, Garrett said, noting that 13 states have outlawed it in some fashion.
"Sometimes it's health boards, sometimes it's legislative or simply adding it to the list of controlled substances," Garrett said.
Todd Thatcher, a forensic psychiatrist with Valley Mental Health, was one of two men who spoke in favor of the ban at a public hearing last week.
"We've been dealing with [spice] since January," Thatcher, a forensic psychiatrist with Valley Mental Health, told The Tribune Tuesday. Several users landed in area hospitals after psychotic episodes, seizures and severe depression, he added.
Thatcher said he deals mainly with parolees and probationers and has seen that spice use considered a violation of their release rules bears all the hallmarks of a drug of abuse.
"We've seen people toss progress, give up jobs, go back to jail, incur more [jail or prison] time and disrupt relationships," Thatcher said. "When they get going on the spice, its got that drive to get the next fix."
No one came forward opposing the regulation.
"There are no credible arguments that spice should be sold over the counter to minors," Garrett said.
Moving against spice
Davis County's ban comes on the heels of Bear River Health District taking similar action earlier this month, sweeping spice from the market in Box Elder, Cache and Rich counties. Several Utah cities have enacted spice ordinances, including Ogden in Weber County, and Davis County's Layton and Kaysville. New regulation nixes spice