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Assembly passes ‘Spice’ ordinance

By Kirsten Swann 7:06 AM January 15, 2014

The ordinance approved by Anchorage Assembly members at Tuesday night’s meeting hones in on the packaging and labeling of the drug.

ANCHORAGE – After hearing a string of Anchorage residents speak up in favor of the measure, local lawmakers voted unanimously to tighten restrictions on the synthetic drug known as “Spice.”

The drug – often sold as potpourri or incense – is currently available at more than 20 retailers citywide. While the drug was prohibited by the state several years ago, the law focused on the chemical composition of the product and sellers were able to skirt the ban by changing the makeup of the drug.

The ordinance approved by Anchorage Assembly members at Tuesday night’s meeting hones in on the packaging and labeling of the drug.

According to the new law, synthetic drugs are defined as “any crystalline, liquid or powder product in crystalline, loose powder, block, tablet, tabs, paper, blotter paper or capsule form, or any stimulant-type product, when..the label is in any way false or misleading, or which does not contain a label specifying: the identity of the commodity; and the name and place of business of the manufacturer, packer, or distributor.”

The law penalizes both the sale and use of the drug.

During the public hearing preceeding the vote, the Anchorage residents and social service providers who testified all expressed support for the new law.

Many shared personal stories. David Rittenberg, a program manager at Brother Francis Shelter, said the shelter has seen a sharp upswing in Spice-related offenses over the past year. Because it fell in a “legal gray area,” Rittenberg said many shelter clients believed it was safe to use.

“The bottom line is that it’s a very, very dangerous drug,” he said.

Shawn Williams, a 34-year Anchorage resident and downtown business owner, told Assembly members he had recently seen a man pass out cold on the street outside his office after smoking Spice purchased from a shop a few blocks away.

“I just want to say that it really bothers me that there are approximately 20 businesses in Anchorage selling this stuff legally,” Williams said.

Ultimately, lawmakers agreed, voting to prohibit the sale of the drug in Anchorage shops. East Anchorage Assemblyman Adam Trombley was absent for the vote, and West Anchorage representative Patrick Flynn cast his vote by phone.

“Thrilled to vote yes, Mr. Chairman,” Flynn said.

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