CLEARFIELD -- Recent tweaking of the components in the synthetic marijuana known as spice has a Davis official scurrying to get a "stopgap" public health ordinance in place to ban the sale of any of the new products in the county.
"This is a very difficult issue to deal with," said Davis County Health Director Lewis R. Garrett.
In August, the Davis Board of Health repealed a public health ordinance regarding a countywide ban on spice because the regulation had been supplanted by a more detailed state law.
The problem is, the state law stated specific components and those components have changed.
Garrett said creators of spice have tweaked those components, allowing manufacturers to once again produce the product and sell it legally.
The health board now wants, at its Nov. 1 meeting, to put its regulation back into place as a stopgap measure until the Legislature can deal more specifically with the issue during its January session, Garrett said.
"It's worth a second look. It's a topic we'll discuss in November," Garrett said of the prior county health ordinance defining spice as being an herbal concoction containing a synthetic variation of cannabinoids, a component in marijuana.
Garrett said between now and that meeting, he will contact the Davis County Attorney's Office to determine what action the health board can take, and contact Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clinton, to ask the local lawmaker to have the problem addressed during the 2012 legislative session.
As a health director, Garrett said, what concerns him is that there is not a lot of history regarding the use of synthetic cannabinoids and what makes them dangerous.
Even more alarming is that chemists are tweaking the components used to create spice in order to get around restrictions, he said.
The fact that spice is so accessible to young people is also a concern that needs to be immediately addressed, Garrett said.
The health board in 2010, before the Legislature's making spice illegal in February, drafted its own ordinance as a stopgap measure to prevent the sale of the product.
But the penalty the health department can impose for someone found selling or possessing spice is minimal, a maximum of a class B misdemeanor, Garrett said, compared with the criminal penalties lawmakers can enact for the same offense.
"This is one of those things that you can chase it and chase it," said an agitated Garrett.
The reports health officials have received, including reports of some users experiencing seizures, he said, show that using synthetic marijuana can be dangerous.
"I knew this was going to happen," Ray said of the difficulty facing the Legislature to list and ban all potential cannabinoids that could be used in producing spice.
"The question is, where do we want to draw the line?" Ray said. "The spirit of the law is that they are banned."
But because of a technicality, he said, they are not.
To reduce the accessibility of spice, Ray said, he is going to propose that the state make it unlawful for anyone younger than 19 to enter a smoke shop, which is where the majority of these products are sold.
Ray said putting more teeth into the law by prosecuting adults found distributing spice to a minor may also prevent the product from falling into the hands of youths.