Anchorage Assembly Passes Spice Ticketing Law

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Prosecutor Cynthia Franklin holds an empty container labeled potpourri which once held the drug Spice. The new law allows police officers to issue $500 tickets based on the packaging, price point and claims of the drug rather than it’s chemical composition.

Anchorage has a new law that fines people in possession of the designer drug spice. It’s the city’s second try at cracking down on the drug…after failed attempts with a narrow law that focused on contents that manufacturers change quickly. The Anchorage Assembly acted quickly after hearing public testimony on the damage that spice has been doing.

It’s just like a traffic ticket, but for drugs. Anchorage police officers can now write anyone a ticket per vial, tube or pack in possession of a spice or bath salt product. Municipal Prosecutor Cynthia Franklin says the new law identifies the substances without actually naming their chemical compounds or makeup.

“They identify it by it’s packaging, by it’s price point, by it’s claims. By the fact that it says on its package that it’s not a controlled substance even though it says it’s potpourri. That makes no sense. Potpourri is not a controlled substance so why would it say on it’s package that it’s not a controlled substance. What this ordinance says is that if it says it’s not a controlled substance then it’s an illicit synthetic drug and it’s illegal.”

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Prosecutor Cynthia Franklin holds a packet of Spice labeled Brainfreeze. The new law passed by the Anchorage Assembly Tuesday allows police to issue tickets based on the name and claims on the packaging and on it’s cost.

Franklin, who helped pass the first spice ordinance in 2010, says manufacturers of drug change its composition quickly. The new law is based on one that was passed in Maine and will make laboratory tests less necessary. Anchorage Police Chief Mark Mew says the new law gives police a way to immediately to get the drug off the streets, through ticketing.

“You pay a fine. That fine, if you don’t pay it will go to your permanent fund. It’s quick. Because it’s quick, because it’s not criminal you don’t get a free attorney from the government, you don’t get a right to jury trial. It’s a low level crime, it’s handled low, it’s handled in an inexpensive way for the public. And while it’s not the total solution, it is a simple solution that we can put to use right a way while the more complex law starts developing.”

The tickets are $500 per item. Officers could begin issuing them as early as this week.

Daysha Eaton is a contributor with the Alaska Public Radio Network.

Daysha Eaton holds a B.A. from Evergreen State College, and a M.A. from the University of Southern California. Daysha got her start in radio at Seattle public radio stations, KPLU and KUOW. Before coming to KBBI, she was the News Director at KYUK in Bethel. She has also worked as the Southcentral Reporter for KSKA in Anchorage.

Daysha's work has appeared on NPR's "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered", PRI's "The World" and "National Native News". She's happy to take assignments, and to get news tips, which are best sent via email.

Daysha became a journalist because she believes in the power of storytelling. Stories connect us and they help us make sense of our world. They shed light on injustice and they comfort us in troubled times. She got into public broadcasting because it seems to fulfill the intention of the 4th Estate and to most effectively apply the freedom of the press granted to us through the Constitution. She feels that public radio has a special way of moving people emotionally through sound, taking them to remote places, introducing them to people they would not otherwise meet and compelling them to think about issues they might ordinarily overlook.

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