News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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December 4, 2013

City Council considering synthetic drug ordinance

TERRE HAUTE — The Terre Haute City Council will be looking tonight at a proposal designed to curb synthetic drug sales and access for minors to tobacco and drug paraphernalia.

The ordinance, put together by Sgt. Steve Lockard of the Terre Haute Police Department and the Vigo County Drug Task Force, would require stores selling tobacco or tobacco paraphernalia and/or accessories to keep those items out of the reach of minors.

It would also require stores selling tobacco paraphernalia, such as pipes or other devices designed for smoking or ingesting tobacco (but that can also be used with illegal drugs), to receive a permit from the city with an annual fee of $60. The ordinance also prohibits the sale of any synthetic drugs, which are often sold as “K2,” “Spice” or “Incense.”

The idea for the measure arose from concern primarily over synthetic drug sales in the area, Lockard told the Tribune-Star Wednesday. However, “synthetic drugs and paraphernalia usually go hand-in-hand,” he noted.

In July of 2012, authorities seized more than $200,000 in pipes and “look-a-like” drugs from three convenience stores in Terre Haute.

If passed, the ordinance would give authorities the ability to inspect stores selling tobacco and drug paraphernalia to insure compliance with the law, Lockard said. The ordinance also gives the city, through the Board of Public Works and Safety, the ability to revoke city-issued permits in the event of ordinance violations.

An earlier version of the ordinance, on the council’s agenda this summer, had strict rules regulating the size of display cases for tobacco paraphernalia. That version did not come before the council for a vote, and those particular guidelines have been removed.

In the past two years, the state legislature has passed measures cracking down on synthetic drug sales. Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller has also come out strongly against them, stating they can cause chest pain, hallucinations, seizures, extreme paranoia, liver damage and other problems.

n Also tonight, the council will consider authorizing the city to borrow up to $5 million in the form of a “tax anticipation warrant.” If approved by the council, this would be the third year for such a temporary loan, which is used to help the city meet day-to-day expenses between twice-yearly property tax payments from the state.

This time around, Mayor Duke Bennett is asking the council to approve the loan for a period of three years, as opposed to the much shorter time periods they have approved in the past. The longer time period would allow the city to avoid legal and other costs associated with taking out the loan, Bennett has stated.

Because tonight’s meeting, set to begin at 7:15 p.m., is a “sunshine” meeting, no votes will be taken. Votes on these and other proposed measures could take place next Thursday night during the council’s regular meeting.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com

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