OGDEN --The operator of a convenience store under fire for selling "spice," a legal incense that produces a marijuana-like high if smoked, won't fight a proposed ordinance to ban the substance in Ogden.
A man who identified himself only as David and as the manager of the Corner Market at Ninth Street and Polk Avenue, adjacent to Horace Mann Elementary School, said his store will continue to get by selling cigarettes, groceries and other items if spice is prohibited.
"If it's banned, it's OK," he said Friday.
If the ordinance is approved Tuesday night by the city council, Ogden could become the first municipality in Utah to prohibit spice sales.
The Utah County Commissioners have prohibited spice in the unincorporated areas of the county, and the Box Elder County Commission will consider a ban on the substance Tuesday.
Ogden's administration developed the ordinance after numerous residents complained that spice sales at the Corner Market are adversely impacting the lives of children and causing an increase in crime.
David said the Corner Market is being unfairly singled out by residents and police.
"Why are they targeting us?" he asked, adding many of his customers are reluctant to come into the store because police keep a close watch on the business. "Everyone is selling it (spice) in Utah."
The Corner Market advertises that it sells "Black Mamba, The Consumer's Choice in Spice." It also has signs posted outside of the store indicating it won't sell herbal spice to minors.
David disputed claims by some residents who believe that spice sales are the only reasons his store has heavy customer traffic.
"Our cigarette prices and grocery prices are cheaper (than other stores)," he said, offering reasons for the booming business. "We have good customer service."
The ordinance under consideration by the city council would ban the manufacturing, distribution, use, possession and purchasing of spice.
Violation of the ordinance would be a class B misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. The ordinance also gives the city authority to seek an injunction to compel businesses to comply with the regulation.
Individuals who sell, purchase or use spice under a prescription from a licensed physician or dentist or at the direction of law enforcement officers would be exempt from the ordinance.
Several city council members said they support banning spice in Ogden.
"It is important for us to eliminate spice in the city of Ogden," Councilman Doug Stephens said in a prepared statement.
"Restricting the use and sale of this would be beneficial, as it continues to have a growing impact on our community. It is a dangerous substance, and we need to protect not only our citizens, but the children of our community as well."
Councilman Brandon Stephenson agrees.
"I believe eliminating the availability of this substance would promote stability in our neighborhoods and protect the children in our city," he said in a prepared statement.
State Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville, said he intends to introduce legislation calling for a statewide ban on spice when the Joint Health and Human Services Interim Committee meets in November.
Froerer wants the possession, sale and distribution of spice to carry criminal penalties similar to that of marijuana and noted that in some ways the substance is more dangerous than pot.
"For different people it produces different effects, from hallucinations to violent tendencies," he said.
Froerer also expects his bill will receive challenges from individuals who maintain that banning spice will interfere with their ability to earn a livelihood.
Fuaad Alatabi, owner of Smoke Etc. at 1019 Wall Ave., said he might move his business to another municipality if the city council bans spice because spice sales make up about half of his profit.
"We need small businesses here for the economy of the town," said Alatabi, who believes the council should do more to attract companies instead of driving them away.
Smoke Etc. has an entire counter dedicated to spice that ranges in price from $5 to $20 depending on the quantity. Alatabi said he sells spice as an incense to customers who are over age 19.
"What they say (is) ... they are happy with it and that it relieves stress," he said.
Smoke Etc. customers said they purchase spice for various reasons.
A 21-year-old man who refused to give his name was at the store Friday. He said he buys about a gram of spice twice a week to mix with other illegal substances that he declined to identify.
"It makes certain things happen faster," he said explaining the effects of spice.
A woman, who was also at Smoke Etc. and declined to give her name, said she buys spice to burn as incense. "It's a ritual substance used for thousands of years," she said.
Not all convenience stores in Ogden sell spice. Karmon Stevens, who manages the Mini Mart at 710 Washington Blvd., said that several months ago she turned down an offer from a distributor who assured her the store would make huge profits by selling spice.
"It brought the wrong crowd," Stevens said explaining why the store doesn't carry spice.