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Jonesborough enacts moratorium on stores selling synthetic drugs

Dr. B.J. Smith knows the real side effects associated with fake drugs. In fact, as an internal medicine physician at two area hospitals, Smith gets up close and personal with his fair share of synthetic drug users.
“We end up taking care of a lot of these folks as they come in from bath salts and synthetic marijuana use,” Smith said. “It’s quite alarming what we are seeing. They are very psychotic, very delusional, hallucinating a lot of times and often require heavy amounts of sedatives to keep these folks under control.”
Doctors often have to put such patients on ventilators and induce comas while the effects of the drugs wear off, Smith said.
“They’re very dangerous drugs,” he noted. “In some ways, because it is so readily available, it makes it more dangerous than some illegal drugs. This is becoming a public health crisis.”
Smith spoke about his experiences with synthetic drug users last week at the request of his cousin, Jonesborough Mayor Kelly Wolfe. Following Smith’s candid account at the Feb. 13 meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, Wolfe emphasized the need for a town ordinance regulating synthetic drugs.
“I think it is important,” Wolfe said, “to begin to take the steps to protect the public health and safety of the people of Jonesborough.”
With communities all over the state voicing similar opinions, Tennessee legislators will consider a proposed bill this session to ban the sale of such substances. However, that ban probably will not go into effect until at least July.
According to Town Attorney Jim Wheeler, the state must first pass its budget before considering the bill to ban the sale of synthetic drugs since the law would come with a fiscal note.
“It may be June or July before they have a definitive answer as to what they are going to do,” he said, explaining the ban, if approved, could possibly go into effect on July 1.
In the meantime, town leaders do not want to leave the door open for businesses selling synthetic drugs to set up shop in Jonesborough.
While other communities have voted to all out ban the sale of synthetic drugs, Wheeler recommended against it, saying a pending lawsuit in federal court is challenging such bans. Because of that lawsuit, Wheeler said, “a number of the communities who passed those bans are not enforcing them.”
Instead the BMA voted to enact a temporary moratorium on the sale or distribution of synthetic drugs in Jonesborough. That moratorium, which garnered unanimous approval from BMA members, will be in effect until town leaders decide whether safety concerns dictate the sale of such drugs should be limited to a certain zone or zones.
In approving the temporary moratorium, BMA members also initiated a review by the town’s Planning Commission of safety and congestion concerns related to the use and sale of synthetic drugs.
“We have a timeline in place to have them reporting back (to the BMA) by July 15,” Wheeler said. “At that point this might be a moot point if the state takes action.”