OGDEN -- On back-to-school night at Horace Mann Elementary, about 150 neighbors gathered at a nearby park to address concerns about a convenience store, next to the school, that sells "spice," a substance that is legal to buy and possess, but that creates a marijuana-like high if smoked.
Members of the neighborhood and local government officials decried the sale of the substance near the school.
The new school year starts today at Horace Mann.
Next door to the school, on the front door of the Corner Market at Ninth Street and Polk Avenue, an ad featuring a sultry woman advertises "Black Mamba, The Consumer's Choice in Spice."
Lisa Stephens, who has two children attending Horace Mann, said she noticed a difference in the neighborhood before she knew the store was selling spice.
Her children have been in the store in the past, she said, but they aren't allowed to go in anymore.
"It's been bringing bad people to the area," Stephens said. "That's what I noticed even before.
"In fact, I told my son not to go there anymore until I could figure out what was going on, because there were people hanging out there for hours. They're not well-dressed, not people I want my kids to walk home from school and have out there."
Stephens estimated the crowd at the rally could have been double or triple its size if back-to-school night weren't being held at the same time at the school.
Many of those present signed petitions and put their names on a list to request e-mailed updates on the progress of the grass-roots movement to make spice illegal.
A man who returned a message left by the Standard-Examiner at the store identified himself as David and said he was the store manager. When asked for a response to the meeting being held nearby regarding the store, he said he didn't care about the community meeting, because the store is selling spice as incense and that's it.
If the neighbors are concerned, he said, they should talk to lawmakers.
Neighbors organized Tuesday's meeting by passing around about 600 fliers that included an e-mail response from Weber-Metro Narcotics Strike Force Sgt. Troy Burnett to a citizen, encouraging residents to take their concerns about the legality of spice to their local legislators.
"I always knew that the community, especially up in that area, were involved, so it doesn't surprise me," Burnett said. "There are a lot of citizens up there, and they just want what's best for the kids."
Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville, told the crowd at the park that he will work to bring a bill outlawing spice to the state Legislature's next session.
Mayor Matthew Godfrey told the crowd at the park that he and Councilman Brandon Stephenson are preparing an ordinance for the city council to approve that would prohibit the sale of spice in Ogden and provide penalties.
Attorneys are working on the ordinance now and believe they can have it done soon, he said.
"It defies all logic that you have a substance that is labeled in the store 'Not for human consumption,' and yet it's an incense with the purpose of being lit and smelled by people in a room," Godfrey said.
Stephenson said the state Legislature is responsible for addressing the legality of spice, which contains an herb called damiana.
The city ordinance would address where it can be sold, similar to a recent ordinance restricting where payday lenders can locate in the city.
"The biggest issues I have revolve around keeping our kids safe and keeping our neighborhoods where people want to live," Stephenson said.
"And both of those things come into question when you're selling such things as they are in this little convenience store. I hear people who've lived here for a long time, who have invested in their neighborhood, who want it to be a safe place -- then you have a convenience store right in the area that's drawing a lot of folks that, frankly, we don't want in our neighborhood, who are after the drug paraphernalia.
"Of course, it's not drug paraphernalia until you use it, but the reality is that everybody knows what it's used for."
The Weber County Sheriff's Office recently arrested three men on suspicion of abuse of spice, with deputies saying while spice is legal to own, if smoked, it is considered abuse of a psycho-toxic chemical.
Ogden School District is working on a policy to prohibit the use of spice at schools and school-sponsored activities. The policy will be reviewed at a school board meeting Sept. 19.