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‘Spice shops’ risk fines

By Charlo Greene 10:43 PM January 16, 2014

New law means $500 tickets for stores and people in possession of synthetic drugs

ANCHORAGE – It’s official. Any business or person caught selling or using synthetic drugs can now be fined $500 per individual packet or container.

The new ordinance was passed Tuesday night by the Anchorage Assembly and signed into law Thursday.

The law bans all synthetic drugs, be it spice, bath salts, potpourri or whatever manufacturers may rename it in an attempt to skirt the law.

This is actually the second ordinance passed in an effort to combat synthetic drug usage in Anchorage. Only this time around, wording covers all items sold for the purpose of human consumption that contain misleading labeling, omit ingredients lists and leave out manufacturer’s information — as opposed to the first, not-so-effective law that outlawed specific ingredients in these now-illicit substances.

Municipal prosecutor Cynthia Franklin said there are 23 businesses in Anchorage that sell synthetic drugs.

Franklin said this new law means police can enter any one of these locations and cite the store $500 for every single synthetic drug packet or container they find. If authorities believe store workers are hiding these products, Franklin said, they will obtain a search warrant to look further.

While many area businesses have been cashing in on the use of these dangerous substances, others have not and have lost customers that migrated to other businesses selling synthetics.

One of those shop owners is Deneen Tuck. She said she hopes this new ban will bring the business back she lost when these substances hit the scene.

Tuck owns Sourdough Tobacco and Internet in Downtown Anchorage. She has not and will not ever sell synthetic drugs, she said.

“I don’t want to watch the news at night and find myself wondering, ‘is that a kid I sold spice to?’” Tuck said.  ”No, I want to be able to go to sleep.”

Tuck said even though the loss of customers to “spice shops” has taken a bite out of her business, she believes this is a moral issue.

“It’s just my morals, my ethics, how I sleep at night and what my integrity is,” Tuck said. “There’s certain costs that it’s not worth making that dollar.”

Tuck said she doesn’t want any of what she considers blood money, lost to shops like Tudor Smoke Shop and Smoker’s Choice. It’s been two days since the Anchorage Assembly passed this new ban on synthetics, yet these two shops still have the products proudly on display.

One manager of Tudor Smoke Shop said the new law hadn’t been signed, so she didn’t believe it was in effect. Franklin said otherwise.

“It’s signed. It’s right here,” Franklin said pointing to the signature affixed on the ordinance. “We have a tool and we’re going to use it. We’re going to continue to use other tools, too, but we’re going to use this one right now.”

Enforcement that Tuck hopes will mean a business boom for Sourdough Tobacco and Internet and shops alike.

“Hopefully, you know I’ll regain some of the customers,” Tuck said. “And the smoke shop owners who didn’t have a conscious who were selling this just to make the dollar, I hope they go out of business because they didn’t care about these children’s lives or their families. Money is not always the value of what integrity is.”

Franklin said while this may be the second ordinance passed to help combat synthetic drug use, it won’t be the last.   Expect another ordinance to pass over the next few months that’ll make these substances even more difficult to get a hold of, she said.

Until synthetic drugs are completely off of Anchorage streets, Franklin said, they will remain a top priority for area lawmakers and law enforcement.

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