MANSFIELD -- The City Council voted unanimously Monday night to become the first in Texas to restrict the sale and possession of a substance most commonly known as K2.
The sale and possession of K2 and salvia divinorum, which are said to produce marijuana-like effects when smoked, will be restricted to adults 21 and older. Also, the "restricted smoking materials" -- as they are called in the ordinance -- and paraphernalia cannot be sold, possessed or delivered within 1,000 feet of a school, church, day care, park or library.
Paraphernalia includes a list of pipes, including bongs, water pipes and smoking masks.
The ordinance will go into effect 10 days after its publication, or in about two weeks, City Attorney Allen Taylor said. The violation is a Class C misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $2,000.
Police Chief Gary Fowler said the ordinance will be enforced as soon as it goes into effect. He said the first step will be notifying businesses that might be affected and doing regular checks to ensure compliance.
The council's action was met with applause from residents who have protested the opening of a hookah lounge and tobacco store within walking distance of several schools. Adoption of the ordinance will apparently prevent Marley'z Lounge, as well as Discount Cigarettes, which sells K2 and a variety of tobacco pipes, from selling the restricted smoking materials and paraphernalia because of their proximity to schools and churches.
Now that the ordinance has passed, city workers will start officially measuring distances.
Marley'z owner, Andies Shepherd, said the restriction on K2 won't affect his business. "I've put in too much work to care about K2 sales," Shepherd said.
The ordinance takes two approaches to defining the makeup of the restricted substances -- also known in the market by names such as Genie and Spice, among others.
First, the city and its attorneys reviewed research from law enforcement, the medical community and the Internet in an attempt to identify the commercial names of the products, which they then listed in the ordinance, Taylor said.
Second, Taylor said, city officials looked to the forensic science community to specify the formulaic combinations and chemical makeup of products that are in general circulation.
A temporary solution
Taylor said the ordinance may have gaps but will serve as a temporary solution until the Texas Legislature takes up the issue in its next session, as many lawmakers have said it will.
"We're not foolish to think that some bright chemist can't somewhere come up with something to get around it," Taylor said.
Resident John Collins read a letter from the Rev. Michael Evans, a Mansfield schools trustee, commending the council for its quick action, which included two hurriedly called meetings last week that took care of the mandatory early readings of the ordinance.
"Today ... we declare victory for our children, victory for our moral way of life and victory for our senior citizens," Collins read.
In North Texas, the city of Allen is also drafting an ordinance to ban the sale and use of K2. The states of Kansas and Kentucky and the U.S. Army have also banned the substance, which has side effects that may include hallucinations, vomiting and headaches.
State Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, said her staff is drafting a bill to present to the Legislature in January to ban the sale and use of K2 statewide, saying she has heard startling stories from parents about how the substance has affected their children.