With a growing concern regarding the use of “bath salts,” legislation is being crafted to ban the synthetic drug from store shelves and to make the use of the cocaine-LSD substitute a criminal offense.
Wapakoneta City Council Health and Safety Committee members recommended city Law Director Dennis Faller to write legislation for the city using an ordinance developed by the city of Mansfield along with verbiage from the state’s amendment to budget bill banning the substance with additional information from other municipalities.
“As people have probably seen in press coverage, many local municipalities from Lima to New Bremen have already taken action on this new growing scourge which is synthetic drugs mislabeled as bath salts, much like K-2 which is a synthetic marijuana,” Councilor-at-large Tom Finkelmeier Jr., who chairs the Health and Safety Committee, said after Tuesday’s meeting. “Since it is technically a legal product, it is too easily available and becoming a problem for law enforcement.
“The reports we have received from Police Chief Russ Hunlock is that this is an escalating problem so we want to do something quickly,” he said. “I feel the will is there to take some action before the state takes action on this matter.”
New Bremen Village Council members passed legislation last week at the behest of their Police Chief Doug Harrod, and Lima City Council members addressed the issue during their Monday meeting to ban “bath salts.” Those pieces of legislation make it illegal to sell, possess or use “bath salts.”
Finkelmeier said the city’s proposed legislation will be on the fast track and he hopes to have one available for councilors’ consideration at their meeting on July 11. When legislation is ready for approval, he intends to seek suspension of the rule of three readings and have emergency language in the ordinance, making the ordinance effective immediately.
He also said he hopes to have additional information regarding the state’s efforts on the matter which is moving through the General Assembly as House Bill 127.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Hunlock said he has witnessed a dramatic rise in the past few weeks. Two to three times each week, police officers are dealing with people using “bath salts,” which is a drug which causes hallucinations and paranoia. Users can become violent in a matter of seconds.
“We had one person with an ax under his house trailer chopping at the floor saying there were people in the floor and the walls,” Hunlock said. “I cannot impress upon you enough how dangerous it is to have officers dealing with people on this drug.”
The police chief said their policy dictates officers will answer “deadly force with deadly force” after trying other means have failed.
In another instance, a user was willing to be transported to the hospital by Wapakoneta EMS but later did not want to be transported and jumped out of the back of the rescue squad.
Hunlock said he is working with city, county and state officials regarding the best direction to proceed on this matter.
Finkelmeier said he is concerned that without local legislation that retail outlets can sell the drug to anyone, regardless of age. He is worried about the addictiveness of the drug and the long-term effects on people and their health.
He also wants the city to take the lead by passing legislation and tell General Assembly members that municipalities in Auglaize County support their efforts to stop the sale of this drug.
“It sounds like a significant problem for local law enforcement, considering the community uproar we had when a person’s golden retriever was killed,” Councilor-at-large Steve Walter said during the meeting. “The public outcry should be greater on this issue.”
Walter, who is a member of the Health and Safety Committee, made a motion for Faller to review legislation and make a proposal for the committee’s consideration. Walter and Finkelmeier agreed if another committee meeting is needed they will schedule one before July 11.
“My concern is relying on the state to pass this as part of the budget reconciliation and to make its way through the system with a Sept. 1 effective date,” Walter said. “I am concerned whether or not we are showing adequate support of the police department and our community if we don’t take some action now.
“I want to take a more proactive approach.”