Lee County wavers on Spice ban

TUPELO – Lee County officials mulled a potential Spice ban Monday, but failed to take any immediate action after hearing from the sheriff and coroner.
If it does pass the ban, the county would join a growing list of Mississippi communities to crack down on the synthetic marijuana sold legally in tobacco shops and convenience stores.
The product, marketed as an herbal incense, goes by numerous names. The most common are Spice and K2.
“If you pass it, we will enforce it,” Sheriff Jim Johnson told the Board of Supervisors after sharing the results of a fact-finding mission on the substance.
But Johnson cautioned against enacting such an ordinance, reminding the board that neither the state nor federal governments had classified the substance as an illegal narcotic.
He likened it to any other legal product, such as paint or prescription drugs, that can be misused by people to get high. He also said Mississippi already prohibits merchants from advertising or selling such products as a means to that end.
But Lee County Coroner Carolyn Gillentine-Green said Spice has no legitimate use as a genuine incense and that its sole purpose is as a marijuana substitute.
“I don’t think there are that many incense burners here,” Gillentine-Green said. “It’s too big a gamble.”
Spice and its alternatives typically consist of leaves sprayed with a synthetic substance that mimics the effects of marijuana. However, the American Association of Poison Control Centers notes that it sometimes triggers different symptoms, such as rapid heartbeat and nausea.
Gillentine-Green said some studies found the substance to be 800 times more potent than marijuana.
She also noted that the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics will push the state Legislature to ban Spice, following the lead of at least eight other states.
But supervisors haven’t yet reached a consensus.
Joe McKinney of District 5 said he supports a ban, but Tommie Lee Ivy of District 4 said he wants more information. Others asked questions but didn’t state an opinion at the meeting.
Supervisors President Darrell Rankin said he’d like more public input before the county takes action. So far, he said, none of his constituents have called or written on the topic.

Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.

Emily Le Coz / NEMS Daily Journal

Click video to hear audio