The new high in the drug world is getting spicy — literally. Spice is a drug that has the same effect as marijuana but is legal in many states, including Utah. In an effort to rein in smoke shops, some of which have been connected to selling spice, Utah lawmakers passed new rules for the shops.
In its recent session, the Utah Legislature enacted a law that prohibits new smoke shops from being located within 1,000 feet of a school, park, church, library, etc. In addition, it requires new smoke shops to get a specialty business license. Originally, the bill also required smoke shop owners to undergo a criminal background check before receiving their license, but that section was recently removed.
HB95 also restricts minors from entering a tobacco store. Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, the sponsor of HB95, said he believes anyone under the age of 19 should not be able to buy paraphernalia such as pipes or hookahs.
This new law gives the framework for small cities to establish standards for smoke shops, while larger cities can do it themselves. Ray wants a standard for separation and what can and cannot be sold in smoke shops, including spice.
Provo Police Chief Craig Geslison has concerns about spice.
“Spice is not going away. Spice is becoming easier to obtain and is becoming a concern for the school district,” Geslison said.
Utah officials are cracking down on this drug left and right, including shutting down a spice operation.
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Layton City Attorney Gary Crane supports the new law because he knows many smoke shops have turned from legitimate shops to shops that just deal with paraphernalia and spices. And with young children’s easy access to the store and its contents, Crane is concerned.
“We have seen documentation from the fire department where young people have been smoking spice and have results from seizures to near-death experiences,” Crane said.
Opponents of this bill inquired about the need for firmer regulations just because a few stores are selling spice illegally.
All in all, Crane is worried smoke shops will attract a bad crowd and be a bad influence.
“Spice has provided a market that enables businesses to make money, besides tobacco,” Crane said.