Fighting Drug War Locally

Tired of mind-altering drugs in packages with pictures of the Scooby-Doo cartoon character on them, two Shadyside women want their village to launch a local war on drugs.

Well, why not?

Throughout the Ohio Valley, lawyers who read about the women’s crusade last week probably were rolling their eyes. Tiny little towns like Shadyside have no business enacting bans on specific drugs, after all.

Again, why not?

Ashley Ostrander and Terri Laquaglia attended last week’s meeting of Shadyside Village Council, complaining about sales of synthetic marijuana. They – and quite a few other people – worry the new-style dope, often in colorful packages and with harmless sounding names, may be drug pushers’ way of getting their hooks into a new generation of youthful customers. “Some of the packages even have Scooby-Doo on them,” Laquaglia told council.

Village action, perhaps even a local ban on synthetic mind-altering drugs, may be needed, the women suggested. It’s an idea heard in other local towns, too.

There’s a reason you don’t hear about drug arrests and prosecutions under municipal ordinances. Communities, especially small ones like those in East Ohio and the Northern Panhandle, don’t have the resources to enact and enforce drug restrictions such as those found in state and federal statutes.

Do you want to be the municipal court judge who has to decide whether the chemical in a defendant’s possession when he was arrested contains 3-hydroxycyclohexyl? That’s one of the substances included in synthetic marijuana, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

In both Ohio and West Virginia, state laws have been enacted to crack down on synthetic marijuana and other chemistry lab drugs. The DEA has rafts of rules on what’s legal and illegal.

How’s a small town to manage such complexities?

But the bad guys and gals are constantly bringing out new and improved – from the standpoint of staying ahead of state and federal anti-drug definitions – substances to sell to folks who want a cheap and, they hope, at least temporarily legal high.

It takes months, sometimes years, to enact laws in Columbus, Charleston and Washington. Rest assured, the bad guys are quicker on the draw. Their goal, again, is to produce new high-inducing chemicals they can sell legally until state and federal agencies and legislators catch on and amend the rules.

Village councils can act within hours. And they don’t really have to know the chemistry.

Think about it this way: Upon learning a new synthetic marijuana is being sold in packages featuring pictures of, say, Mickey Mouse, a village council can simply pass an ordinance banning sale of dried herbs in Mickey Mouse packages.

Outrageous? Of course. But do you really want to be the store owner who, knowing full well what you’re selling, appeals a municipal court fine to a higher court? It’s cheaper to simply stop trying to sell mind-altering drugs.

Look at it this way: It’s a sneaky, underhanded way for municipal councils to fight a sneaky, underhanded way of selling drugs that, if not illegal today, will be banned by state and federal governments tomorrow.

Unfair? Give me a break.

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