Superior City Council to look at regulating sales of synthetic drugsSuperior could soon have an ordinance like Duluth’s to restrict the sale of synthetic drugs.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
Superior could soon have an ordinance like Duluth’s to restrict the sale of synthetic drugs.
Police Chief Charles LaGesse said he plans to introduce the ordinance, which is designed to regulate the establishment of businesses like the Last Place on Earth in downtown Duluth.
Coupled with legislation under development by the Wisconsin attorney general’s office, the new ordinance would license and regulate with zoning and other restrictions any business that would sell synthetic drugs in Superior. City Attorney Frog Prell said he hopes the city would never have to use it.
LaGesse said he and Prell have had a number of discussions in recent months about the potential establishment of a synthetic drug business in Superior.
“Individuals under the influence of these substances have exhibited violent and self-destructive behavior and represent a danger to themselves and others,” LaGesse said. “With the increased availability of synthetic drugs in the Twin Ports, there has been a drastic increase in the number of disturbances and medical events that have been attributed to the use of these substances.”
The chemically treated products have been sold under labels such as pipe cleaner, incense and bath salts with the words “not for human consumption.”
While the city already has an ordinance prohibiting synthetic drugs, listing specific chemical compounds and their analogs, LaGesse said the ordinance doesn’t go far enough because manufacturers change the chemical compounds.
“While well-intended, it does not specifically ban the possession or sale of synthetic drugs,” LaGesse said.
That reality is driving an effort to put tighter restrictions on those who would sell the drugs.
Specifically, LaGesse said, he plans to introduce an ordinance that would require licensure of businesses that sell synthetic drugs in Superior, establish zoning rules, determine hours of operation and create a structure for repealing the license if established rules are violated.
“A key requirement is for an accurate listing of all ingredients on the packaging of all synthetic drugs being sold,” LaGesse said. “Through such labeling, the buyer is informed about what they are purchasing.”
The chief said failure to meet the labeling standard would result in fines and the license for the sales could be revoked. Once revoked, any further sale of synthetic drugs would be illegal.
LaGesse said he plans at the next Superior City Council meeting to introduce an ordinance similar to one recently adopted in Duluth.
Wisconsin’s Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen is working to establish a more complete list of chemicals that would be banned under state law.
Currently, a law originally sponsored by state Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar, bans eight chemicals and their derivatives, but the law has proven difficult to enforce.
Prell said he believes that if the city gets to a place where it is acting to revoke a license, Superior has already lost the battle.
However, Prell said he’s confident the combination of changes coming in state law and an ordinance to regulate the sale will keep Superior from getting to that place.
Councilor Dan Olson said he is familiar with the Last Place on Earth; his nephew is a police officer in Duluth.
“The fact of the matter is there are businesses closing around there,” Olson said. “I’ve talked to Mayor (Don) Ness about this and I would support anything we can do — the sooner, the better — so we don’t have the problem, before it becomes a problem.”
The next regularly scheduled council meeting is July 16.