Mayor endorses citizen effort

By Kevin Wilson

CNJ STAFF WRITER

kwilson@cnjonline.com

A packed audience at the North Annex of the Clovis-Carver Public Library on Thursday asked the Clovis City Commission to move swiftly towards outlawing the sale of synthetic drugs inside city limits, and were told in no uncertain terms the commission would do so.

More than 150 people packed the meeting room for the meeting, with more than 90 percent of them there to encourage the commission to create an ordinance banning the sale of synthetic cannabis, more commonly known as spice and pep and sold in smoke shops as non-consumable potpourri.

“Individuals are consuming these products,” said Stacey Chavez, a registered nurse and spokesperson for Citizens Against Synthetic Cannabis. “An individual has no idea what the drugs contain or the compounds in it, or what the effect may be.”

She asked the commission to create a committee on formation of an ordinance that included representation from her group, and have that ordinance in place by Dec. 11. She brought three ordinances other New Mexico communities have passed for guidance, and noted that writing the ordinance is tough because manufacturers can substitute ingredients to stay one step ahead of the law.

In return for the commission’s action, Chavez said, the group would help build local support for the ordinance and educate citizens about the dangers of synthetic drugs.

“We are willing to do whatever it takes,” Chavez said. “We want to make sure this ordinance is enforceable and prosecutable.”

Mayor David Lansford said he didn’t remember seeing such an impassioned appeal or such a high level of support for anything in his decades of city government.

“I don’t see any reason to not do exactly as you asked,” Lansford said, with his words followed by cheers and thanks from the crowd. Lansford said he would create a committee with around a dozen people, representing each district, the citizens group and law enforcement to put together an ordinance.

Backed by numerous people holding signs that said, “Save our children,” “Protect Our Citizens” and “Synthetic Drugs Kill,” Chavez warned of effects that ranged from panic attacks to heart ailments to comas and death.

Jennifer Neikirk of Clovis thanked Lansford and the commissioners for their willingness to listen and act, and said the issue was important to her because she is a teacher at Farwell Junior High and synthetic drugs impact countless area children.

Tonya Kelley of Clovis said she has seen the effects of the drug with her own family, and that labeling the items as incense is a facade.

“They tell you it’s not for smoking, but they put it next to pipes (in stores),” Kelley said. “I can tell you from personal experience in my family, it is a drug and it is addictive.”

In turn, commissioners thanked the large group for caring about an issue enough to come to the meeting en masse.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” Sandoval said.

Commissioner Randy Crowder warned the crowd that the requirements of creating the ordinance, introducing it and approving it in a proper manner may run the commission past the group’s Dec. 11 request by a few days, but had no opposition to moving forward. Many audience members said they were fine if they missed the deadline by a few days for procedural reasons.

Carolyn Spence of Clovis asked if when the ordinance was approved, if it could be moved on to the Curry County Commission because she feared the problem would simply be pushed outside the city limits.

The Portales City Council on Tuesday approved its own ban on synthetic marijuana sales, with an ordinance that revokes a business license for a year upon a third violation.