Jonesborough’s moratorium on synthetic drugs went into effect Thursday morning with the Board of Mayor and Alderman’s unanimous second reading approval of an ordinance that will temporarily ban sale of the drugs and the town administrator’s promise that violators will be fined and petitioned to court for injunctions to stop the public nuisance.
The ordinance is effective through July 15 and establishes a four-month moratorium designed to allow time for the town to review zoning laws and issues that could allow the sale of synthetic drugs in specified areas and for the state to enact a law with more stringent penalties than the ordinances being adopted by municipalities across the region.
Mayor Kelly Wolfe told the board state lawmakers are not expected to take action on a synthetic drug bill until after the state budget is approved and said the town must be prepared to deal with the drugs prior to any state law that would take effect July 1. “This is an epidemic and we need to continue to be diligent,” Wolfe said.
Town Attorney Jim Wheeler said the moratorium, which was approved on first reading by the board on Feb. 12, making it the first attempt to regulate synthetic drugs in Washington County, “keeps other options on the table” in the event the ordinance is not successful.
“This gives us the option to consider (zoning issues) without anyone being grandfathered in” or allowed to continue an activity that existed in a specific location prior to the enactment of regulation, Wheeler said.
While there are currently no businesses in Jonesborough selling synthetic drugs, Town Administrator Bob Browning said there were people who were selling but agreed not to sell on the request of the town. Police officers have been canvassing Jonesborough businesses to watch for the drugs and will continue to monitor for violations.
“We intend to enforce the moratorium,” Browning said. “The problem is the limit of a $50 fine municipalities have. It is a public nuisance and fines will be followed by court petitions for injunction.
“The trend is that when people see a void (in synthetic drug sales), they move in fast. If it requires seeking an injunction, we intend to do that and we are starting that now. The moratorium is a very important step.”
According to Browning, the Jonesborough Planning Commission will review zoning issues and formulate recommendations for the board to consider before July 15.
“The planning commission will do the homework,” he said, comparing the process to an earlier consideration of zoning issues related to methadone clinics in Jonesborough.
The new ordinance places the moratorium on the “sale, trade, barter or exchange” of any chemical compound that mimics the effects of marijuana or the effects of psychoactive drugs with stimulant properties.