Anti-drug rally set for Unicoi Co. today

Brad Hicks • Feb 27, 2012 at 10:06 PM

ERWIN — Although Unicoi County now has a resolution in place restricting the sale and use of synthetic drugs, some feel the message on the dangers of these substances needs to be spread as much as possible.

A “Drug Free Unicoi County Rally” is scheduled to take place today beginning at 6 p.m. in the parking lot of Erwin Town Hall. The rally is being held to protest the distribution and use of not only synthetic drugs, but all illegal drugs in Unicoi County.

The rally was organized by Josh Callahan, youth pastor at Lighthouse Baptist Church in Unicoi. Callahan said he previously attended a seminar in which Erwin Police Chief Regan Tilson discussed the dangers of synthetic drugs. He also said he was inspired to do something after seeing news reports last week of protests made up of students from Daniel Boone High School.

“I told my wife ‘why can’t we do something like that?’” Callahan said.

After getting the OK from Tilson to use Erwin Town Hall as a location from the rally, youth group member Nathan Farnor began an online campaign using Facebook to garner as many attendance commitments as possible. As of Monday afternoon, around 50 people have committed to attending the rally, Callahan said.

John Day, spokesman for the Unicoi County Citizens for Good Governance, is helping to facilitate the rally.

“This rally is the beginning of a movement,” Day said. “People in Unicoi County are taking a stand against synthetic and illegal drug distribution and use. We want to get rid of all of them in this county.”

Across the street from the rally is Erwin’s Tri-City Wholesale Tobacco Store. At first the rally was intended to protest the shop’s sale of synthetic drugs. Now, Day said kudos must be given to the store’s owner, Allen Hampton, in his proactive approach in removing such substances from the store’s shelves.

Hampton said his store never sold bath salts or other items sold in local head shops, such as K2 or Spice, but did sell incense potpourri. Hampton said the incense was previously taken out of the store after he received requests for its removal. However, he said the products were eased back in as other local distributors had not halted their sales.

Hampton said he was recently approached by town officials, who asked if he could look to possibly remove the items from store shelves again. As of Monday, these items are no longer sold at the store, Hampton said. He also said he intends to place a sign on the store’s door, advising those looking to buy bath salts and other synthetics drugs to look elsewhere. Hampton said he wants to see other distributors across the county cease the sale of such products.

“We have no problem about not putting it out, but we just want everybody to be fair about it,” he said.

Callahan said the more awareness of the issue is built, the more pressure is placed on state legislators to pass bills on the floor to criminalize the use and sale of synthetic drugs.

“This stuff is running rampant,” he said. “It’s destroying homes and it’s destroying kids.”

Callahan said anyone wishing to attend the rally may do so.

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