Shift to state law: City rescinds drug ordinance, follows only state law

A city ordinance making certain synthetic, or designer, drugs illegal to possess, sell and use is off the books — it has been replaced by a state law.
Wapakoneta city administrators welcomed the change after Wapakoneta City Council members adopted an ordinance on Monday rescinding the city’s previous ordinance making illegal certain synthetic drugs, such as “bath salts.”
“This is the right thing to do because it puts us in line with the state and now all the communities deal with these designer drugs including ‘bath salts’ the same and we are all operating under the same standard,” Mayor Rodney Metz said after Monday’s meeting. “There should be less confusion — no matter where you are in the state you are going to know what the law is and how it will be applied. It is not going to be different from community to community.”
In October, the General Assembly passed House Bill 64 which banned designer drugs and certain synthetic drugs and Gov. John Kasich signed the bill into law the same day. The bill took effect Oct. 17.
Councilor-at-large Tom Finkelmeier Jr. said the city should save money because adhering only to the state law ensures the city would no longer have to house violators of the ordinance and would no longer have to prosecute the case with the city law director.
While no cases have been prosecuted since the ordinance went into effect on July 13, the city would have been responsible for housing and prosecution. With the burden shifted to the state, a violator will be housed at the Auglaize County Law Enforcement Center and county prosecuting attorneys will be responsible for prosecution of a crime.
Safety-Service Director Bill Rains told the Wapakoneta Daily News he welcomed the change because of the expected cost savings and he believes the county prosecuting attorneys are more well-versed in dealing with crimes of this nature.
Rains shared that in his conversations with Police Chief Russ Hunlock since the city’s adoption of its ordinance in July that the number of cases in the city declined to only a few cases in the last six months. Hunlock reported incidents rose through the first half of the year to officers handling two to three cases each week.
Rains noted businesses in the city also cooperated which helped with law enforcement efforts.
“Our ordinance pushed the problem out of town and other neighboring communities either had or adopted a similar ordinances which made it harder for people to buy and possess the drug in the area,” Rains said. “Those measures helped and then the state adopted their law to make it illegal throughout the state and that made it easier for law enforcement to fight this problem across jurisdictional lines.”
Rains also said rescinding the local law helps police officers because any conflict the city’s ordinance may had with state law “clears up any confusion for a person committing an alleged crime with what law they will be charged.”
“When city council passed the ordinance back in July, they knew when the state Legislature got around to passing their bill and Kasich signed it into law that we would rescind ours and let the state law take effect,” Rains said. “We’ve always wanted the state law to take precedent.”