May 24, 2018
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Synthetic drugs — whether Skunk, spice, or Scooby Snax — are now banned in Bangor

By Nick McCrea, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — The City Council officially approved Mark Hathaway as Bangor’s 29th police chief on Monday night. Hathaway will take his new post effective Tuesday morning.

The 25-year police veteran said he would be a “low-key” leader, but would always be available when called on. He said the department would do a better job at showcasing its strengths and reaching out to be active and responsive in the community.

“You’re going to start meeting the officer,” Hathaway said. “Everybody that’s watching on television, here in the room, everybody should know the police chief. I want you all to know the police department as we move forward.”

“Please know that it is a privilege to serve in this position,” Hathaway said before receiving a standing ovation from meeting attendees in the packed council chamber.

One of his first challenges as police chief will be attempting to stem the tide of synthetic drugs, which the council targeted in a vote the same night.

During Monday night’s meeting the City Council passed an ordinance that outlaws the sale of more than 100 substances with street names — ranging from “Scooby Snax” to “Skunk” — as well as any “misbranded” drug. Synthetic cannabinoids, such as “spice,” and synthetic cathinones, such as bath salts, usually are labeled “not fit for human consumption” or as potpourri, incense or another innocuous identifier to avoid federal regulations. The fine will be $500 per violation.

Councilor Joe Baldacci called the drugs an “ever-present threat to our community.”

At the request of downtown business owners and Interim Police Chief Peter Arno, two Bangor smoke shops agreed last month to pull spice from their shelves. A third, Headies, has yet to agree, according to police.

“Already, since one of the head shops downtown has chosen to stop selling spice, we’ve heard positive comments from business owners,” who say that there are fewer people loitering and causing problems in the area, Councilor Ben Sprague said, adding that the city needs to watch the drugs carefully to stem underground markets for the substances.

The state is considering a synthetic marijuana ban of its own. Lawmakers on the Legislature’s Criminal Justice Committee gave unanimous support Friday to proposals that would increase the penalties for use, sale and possession of synthetic marijuana and a chemical hallucinogen known as bath salts. LD 661, An Act to Prohibit Sale or Possession of Synthetic Cannabinoids, which was sponsored by Rep. Adam Goode, D-Bangor, would make so-called synthetic pot, which is being marketed as “spice” or K2, an illegal Schedule Z drug.

Current law bars the use, sale or possession of specific chemical compounds that are synthetic cannabinoids; Goode’s bill would broaden the definition to include any compound “that has been demonstrated to have binding activity at one or more cannabinoid receptors.”

Federal agencies have attempted to stem the use and sale of synthetic cannabinoids by banning certain chemical compounds used to create them, but producers have been able to adjust the substances’ formulas to dodge the regulations.

In other business, the council passed a resolve to donate $5,000 toward relief efforts in the city of Lewiston after a rash of arsons left nearly 200 people homeless.

The council also held a first reading of an item that would allow the city to take out a $1.2 million loan to cover improvements at Cameron Stadium.

Councilor James Gallant argued that safety issues at the stadium, such as slippery bleachers and light poles and fences that tend to carry electrical charges, need to be addressed. He said the costs of upgrades would be substantially lower than the cost of a lawsuit.

The bond, which would be backed with $355,000 from a Cameron Stadium reserve account and $70,000 in private donations, would fund bleacher replacement, upgrades to the electrical service, cold storage facilities, as well as restroom and press box improvements.

Councilor Pauline Civiello made a motion to have voters decide at the polls whether the city should take out the bond. However, the bond question would have had to wait until the November election because there are fewer than 60 days left until the June election. There was little interest among councilors in holding a special election for the bond. The amount of the bond is less than the monetary threshold laid out in a charter amendment passed last year, which requires a public referendum if a project exceeds a certain dollar amount. Civiello’s motion failed to receive a second.

A public hearing on the bond will be held at the May 29 council meeting.

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