KIMBALL, Tenn. -- Recent news concerning the sale and use of synthetic drugs has prompted city leaders to launch a preemptive attack before the problem grows out of control.
On Thursday, the Kimball Board of Mayor and Alderman unanimously approved on first reading a new ordinance on first reading that would create a civil penalty for using or selling the artificial drugs.
Often marketed as "bath salts," "plant food" or "incense," the synthetics mimic the effects of ecstasy, cocaine, marijuana or other controlled substances, Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper said in a news release earlier this year.
Officials said the synthetics had been sold in convenience stores across the state until new laws were recently passed to ban them.
Police Chief Tommy Jordan said he is not aware of any stores selling the synthetic drugs in Kimball, but officers have run into situations of their use.
"We have had instances where we've encountered it on the streets during traffic stops or house calls," Officer Tray Adams said. "We've just charged them for impairment because we were unsure how the state defined it."
Kimball Attorney Billy Gouger said a new state law that went into effect in July defines what a synthetic drug is so new technologies in creating them won't stay a step ahead of existing laws.
"The state law is designed to get at any effort to circumvent the law," he said. "It's written so that any synthetic drug designed to mimic the effects of a natural drug is covered. This is the best law there is out there."
Gouger said an ordinance that was passed in Clarksville, Tenn., in May which uses the same terminology as the state law is being adopted as the model for cities all over Tennessee.
Kimball's ordinance is worded so that it "models the language in the state law," he said.
Violation of the ordinance would result in a civil offense and a fine not exceeding $50, officials said.
Local officers will have the option of making a violation a civil offense through the city ordinance, a criminal offense through the state law, or both, Gouger said.
Vice Mayor Rex Pesnell owns a convenience store in Kimball and said he has been approached by people from out of town asking if they can buy synthetic drugs there.
"I didn't even know what it was at the time," he said. "[The people] said that they had been told there was some place over here where they could buy it. I think we need to do whatever we can to eliminate any possibility of a store selling these items."
Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.