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Synthetic Drug Crackdown

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (CBS 2/FOX 28) -- The Cedar Rapids city council has passed a synthetic drug ordinance that allows officers more flexibility when it comes to these dangerous substances. However, the approach the city is taking is a bit different than other cities with similar laws.

Mission of Hope director Martin Dwyer says just a few doors down from his mission sits the Tobacco Outlet and Hookah, which as recently as a few months ago, was offering anything but hope.

“Raucous behavior, sometimes swearing, sometimes pushing, sometimes shoving,” Dwyer says.

The store was selling synthetic drugs. Federal officials shut it down earlier this year.

“It was not an infrequent event to have someone have a seizure on the side walk in front after smoking the synthetic marijuana,” Dwyer says.

The city says those are the scenes they're trying to end with their ordinance. Rather than focusing on the constantly changing chemistry of synthetics, they’re taking a different approach.

“This will be different than the other laws, because it's not basing it on the chemical compounds,” says Amanda Grieder, the Cedar Rapids Nuisance Property Abatement Coordinator

The ordinance looks at eight factors – including things like false marketing. For example, the drugs being advertised instead as potpourri or bath salts.

Then ordinance also takes a look at pricing, such as what potpourri or bath salts would cost in the retail market. For instance, a packet of "potpourri" costing $30 dollars rather than $3 would be reason for suspicion.

Substance abuse counselors say it's a great first step.

“I think it has real promise,” says Curt Wheeler with the Area Substance Abuse Council. “I think it finally gives the community something to stand on.”

Dwyer says eliminating the source on his block cleaned up the sidewalks and allowed his mission to provide better service.

“The sound of children coming in and coming out has been a blessing to our ears,” he says.

Dwyer is looking forward to seeing what it will mean for the rest of the city.

Those in violation of the ordinance can receive anywhere from a simple misdemeanor to a $750 fine.
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