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Tucson city leaders vote yes on spice ordinance

Posted at 10:23 PM, May 22, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-24 00:41:18-04

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) Tucson city leaders voted yes without opposition to pass the new 'spice' ordinance.

This ordinance will create harsher penalties for those caught selling synthetic cannabinoids. Those penalties include a maximum of 6 months in jail and fines up to $2,500. 

The city will also have the power to suspend the tobacco license of a retailer who violates the ordinance. The violator could also be liable for the city's costs to investigate and prosecute the violation.

Spice is a synthetic marijuana that is made by spraying chemicals onto a plant-based material. It can have powerful and deadly effects.

Council member Steve Kozachik has been working with the city attorney and other council members to draft the ordinance. 

While there are state laws that ban the sale of spice, Kozachik says producers often get around the laws by manipulating the drug. The ordinance would put the city one step ahead of those producers, Kozachik said. 

"When we see out on the street that the producers of this stuff have changed chemical components, we can upgrade our local statute more quickly than the state can," Kozachik said.

"This stuff is bad stuff," Kozachik said. "It's not being hyped up. It is actually killing people. People's lives are being devastated by this."

Captain Andy Skaggs with the Tucson Fire Department says the agency has seen a dramatic decrease in spice-related calls. 

At one point last year Skaggs says they were getting up to 70 spice-related calls a month. In July 2016 federal agents raided a number of locations in Tucson and 18 people were arrested. 

From January 1 to the first week of May of this year, Skaggs says the agency has received around 29 spice-related calls.

According to a report from the Pima County Medical Examiner's Office, two people died from spice overdoses in 2015. 

Despite the recent decrease in spice calls, Kozachik says the ordinance is necessary and the city needs to be proactive.