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Board of health votes to criminalize ‘spice’

October 6th, 2010 Posted in Opinion

By Satenik Sargsyan

LOGAN–The Bear River Board of Health voted unanimously Tuesday to criminalize the production, manufacturing, dispensing and possession of spice in Box Elder, Cache and Rich County areas.

The board was the first tri-county body to ban synthetic cannibanoids, more widely known as the substance “spice,” in the state of Utah. The decision followed Logan, Providence and Cache County ordinances criminalizing spice.

“We’ve seen the rise of the problem in our emergency departments,” said Bear River Health Board chairman Jim Davis, who is also executive director of USU Student Health Services. “We don’t know the degree to which hospitalizations have occurred because we have only been able to identify the drug ‘spice’ recently.”

Spice is a synthetic marijuana substitute. Because of its shorter span of “high,” people tend to use it more often than marijuana, which increases chances of substance overdose and causes longer-lasting side effects. Some marijuana tests identify spice if conducted shortly after the use but the long-term effects are not known yet.

“We’ve seen people who come in with very high blood pressure, rapid pulses, who are out of control in terms of anxiety and some psychosis that occurs with it,” Davis said. “Those things combined make it a very unhealthy and unsafe situation for the public and the individuals who use it.”

The violation of the law by first-time offenders will result in a class-B misdemeanor, while the individuals who violate the law subsequently within two years will be charged with a class-A misdemeanor.

Cache County Executive Lynn Lemon stressed the necessity of banning the substance by elected bodies of government throughout Box, Elder and Cache counties before the Utah Legislature considers the case. The board has at least one elected member from each county.

“It will take some time before it comes to the state legislature to deal with the problem,” said Bear River Health Department director Lloyd Berentzen. “It is within the purview of the board of health to try and protect the public. From our standpoint, this is a substantial public health issue.”

Davis said county health boards have previously made decisions to protect the public health in other matters but this ordinance was the first decision in regards to spice. The action was considered because of a large number of juveniles reporting to court.

The public did not present any opposing commentary during the public hearing.


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