AUBURN, Maine — Councilors approved a ban on synthetic drugs, despite a last-ditch effort by Councilor Joshua Shea to derail it.
“We are being asked to create a law here, and it’s not just an ‘I hate drugs’ yes vote,” Shea said. “This has some repercussions. It’s a big deal.”
The new city ordinance is designed to match one approved in Lewiston in July. It makes it illegal to stock, sell or have products designed to produce an illicit high.
Councilors voted to approve the ordinance on final reading by a 5-2 vote, with Shea and Councilor Tizz Crowley opposing it.
The new rule targets potpourri, incense, bath salts and other items that may say they are not meant for human consumption but clearly are. Labels on the products may promise mood enhancement, euphoria or a high, they may be packed to look like illegal drugs and they may seem especially expensive. They can frequently contain narcotic or hallucinogenic chemicals that are not regulated.
The list includes stimulants more commonly referred to as bath salts that may be sold in gas stations, tobacco shops and convenience stores under names like “Bliss,” “Drone,” “Peeve” or as a stain remover.
It also includes synthetic marijuana that can be sold as incense and potpourri with names like “Pot Pourri,” “Fake Weed,” “Spice” or “Hayzee.”
Councilors discussed the new ordinance in August, and Auburn police Deputy Chief Jason Moen noted that Auburn did not have any stores selling the synthetic drugs.
That’s where Shea’s objection came in.
“If you want to make a list of everything that’s bad for you but not an issue here and outlaw it, we can,” Shea said. “I can also make you a long list of completely legal things that are bad for you.”
Shea argued that the ordinance was speculating on problems that didn’t exist.
“I think the issue is sufficiently handled by state laws,” Crowley said.
But Councilor Mary Lafontaine said the goal was to make sure the substances don’t get a foothold in Auburn, and Councilor Belinda Gerry agreed.
“This may be far-reaching,” Gerry said. “But I’m willing to take the hit and pay the penalty if this saves at least one person’s life. We owe it to the community to support this legislation get the bad stuff off the street.”