9/20/2012 8:00:00 AM War on synthetic drugs: All forms of 'spice,' 'bath salts' declared a public nuisance, prohibiting sales
Much of this evidence, seized by the Prescott Area Narcotics Task Force in February raids of local stores, did not qualify as controlled substances. Now, a judge has ruled that selling “novelty powder drugs” constitutes a public nuisance.
Photo courtesy Les Stukenberg
PRESCOTT - A judge on Monday issued both preliminary and permanent injunctions that would stop Yavapai County stores from selling the designer drugs commonly known as "bath salts" or "spice," and in doing so handed County Attorney Sheila Polk a victory in her battle to stop the sale of so-called novelty powders that state law has been unable to abate.
The move is necessary because, as the Arizona Legislature makes the synthetic drugs illegal, the drug manufacturers simply change one compound in their product, which creates what's known as an "analog." Analogs have the same effects as the originals but are legal, because they are not the same chemical prohibited by state law.
Polk's approach, which she believes is unprecedented, was to ask a judge to rule that the sale of analogs is a public nuisance, thus allowing them to be stopped without having to create new laws for every substance.
Previously, more than 30 parties were involved in this civil action, but by the time the case went before Superior Court Judge Michael Bluff last month, all but three - Stephen Ogden, Scott "Wild Wes" Lance and The Island Store - had agreed to stipulate they would not continue to sell the products in return for Polk dropping the charges against them.
While all the stores that stipulated are covered under a permanent injunction, the three who did not join in were covered by a preliminary injunction, which stops the sales until the court can hold further hearings.
Retailers that have been banned from selling the novelty powders are Quick Stop, Mike's Mini Mart, and The Island Store in Prescott; X-Hale Smoke Shop, Mario's PV Quick Stop, the Hobby Glass, Smoke N' Thingz, Mike's Connection and Texaco on Highway 69 in Prescott Valley; Hawaiian Honey Swimwear and Pipe Dreamz Smoke Shop in Cottonwoods; and Wes Lance Trading Company in Camp Verde.
Lance, a candidate for County Supervisor in District 2, said he would fight the injunction, not because he wants to sell the products, but on general principle.
"I've never doubted how bad this stuff is," he said. "But we need the government out of our lives. What's next - are they going to tell us we can't eat chocolate pudding?
"'Analog drug' is a witch-hunt," he continued. "It means anything they decide they don't want people to have, all they have to do is say, 'That's an analog drug,' and we can't have it."
In his ruling, Bluff said there was evidence that the synthetic drugs "cause serious physical and mental harm to users." He agreed with the anecdotal evidence supplied in testimony by EMS workers, nurses, and law enforcement officers that "because of the seriousness of their medical conditions, and due to the patients' combative nature, several people are needed to restrain the patients."
The key to Polk's plan, though, was to have Bluff find that the stores could be considered a public nuisance under the law. He did, saying "there is a likelihood of irreparable injury to the people of Yavapai County should the retail defendants continue to sell these 'novelty powder drugs' to the general public."
"What is so important is that parents and their children, as well as all community members, understand how dangerous and life-threatening these synthetic drugs are," Polk said. "I knew this stuff was horrible when we started the trial, yet I was still overwhelmed with the testimony recounting the violence and self-destruction, and how these drugs are affecting everyone across the county."