NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

October 8, 2013

Curbs put on 'fake weed'

Selectmen OK ordinance to control use of synthetic cannabinoids

(Continued)

Synthetic cannabinoids appear to be most popular among 12- to 17-year-olds who can buy the products legally in at least two Seabrook stores, then abuse it by smoking it with no warning of its possible effect. The result in some cases has been devastating.

At a meeting in September, numerous citizens pleaded with selectmen to enact a local ordinances that could put a halt to the legal sale of synthetic cannabinoids in town, sharing personal stories of the impact synthetic marijuana use has had on their family members.

But finding a way to curb the use of fake marijuana through local ordinance was tricky, according to town counsel Robert Ciandella. The approach taken by selectmen last night works within the narrow parameters allowed cities and towns by the state of New Hampshire to regulate this substance, Ciandella said, and stands the best chance of surviving a legal challenge if one is brought.

Since New Hampshire is not a Home Rule State, municipalities can only pass ordinances for issues on which they have specifically been given authority by the state, Ciandella said. New Hampshire has a comprehensive set of state drug laws and towns aren’t permitted to pass others, he said.

However, selectmen are given authority over town property, Ciandella said, and the new ordinance relies on that. Seabrook’s ordinance is similar to one enacted in Wolfeboro, N.H.

Although Seabrook’s ordinance doesn’t prohibit selling synthetic cannabinoids, it makes it unlawful for it be transported on town roads. Trucks can’t drive over Seabrook roads to bring the product to stores in town, and purchasers can’t transport it over town roads after buying it at local stores. Any person found in violation of the ordinance risks a fine of $550 per incident.

Deputy Chief Michael Gallagher cautioned residents to be patient and give police and town officials a little time to work out the logistics of enforcing the new ordinance.

But police are fully behind the new ordinance and intend to enforce it, police Chief Lee Bitomske said last night.

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