Blazing trail against fake marijuana

Published 7:10 pm Wednesday, August 11, 2010

When Jim McKennon saw a legal synthetic marijuana sold as anincense destroy the life of a young man he knew, he decided it wastime to take action.

“I’ve seen this ruin a life, and it was totally legal,” saidMcKennon, who did not want to identify the person. “And it’s moreaddictive than marijuana.”

After McKennon and a group of concerned citizens showed theirsupport at a recent board of aldermen meeting when the mayor issuedan immediate ban on the substance inside the city, he has set hiseyes on the next frontier, because at this point the designer drugis still legal in the county.

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“This is war,” he said. “I’m happy with Brookhaven, but I don’twant it to stop here. We’re going to the supervisors, and the nextstep is to try and get it at the state level.”

The incense, known by many nicknames including “Spice,” “Blaze”and “K2” was sold in the city at several different gas stations.After Tuesday’s aldermen meeting, they were given 24 hours by themayor to take it off their shelves.

McKennon had a good following to go to the board of aldermenmeeting, filling every chair in the boardroom. But with certainmembers on his team recruiting, they could potentially have upwardsof a hundred people to show their insistence on a county ban on thesubstance as well.

“I’ve learned an important lesson – you can get anything donewith enough people,” he said. “Politicians don’t have to respond toone ant, but they do have to respond to a colony of ants.”

And the crusader is taking it a step further, he said. He hasasked Police Chief Pap Henderson for a list of businesses that havebeen selling the incense, and he’s going to publicize it when hegets it.

“I want the people of Brookhaven to know who’s been sellingdrugs that are killing our kids to make money,” he said. “This islife and death. I’ve seen the practical death of a 17-year-old overthis.”

The actual move toward the ban began in June when Ward FourAlderman Shirley Estes brought the incense to the board’sattention. At that point, City Attorney Joe Fernald and Hendersonwere asked to contact the attorney general’s office for an opinionon the sale of the substance, which is only slightly different on amolecular level than actual marijuana.

Henderson said he’s fully behind the ban in the city, and thathis officers are on the lookout for the substance.

“Anything that’s better for the community and the human race isa good thing,” he said. “This is definitely on our agenda now, andI’m glad Alderwoman Estes came to me with that problem.”

Meanwhile, Sheriff Steve Rushing said he has already started thewheels turning toward getting the ban established in the county aswell.

“(Pike County Sheriff) Mark (Shepherd) got Pike County to passit, and I’m waiting on him to send me a copy of what they’ve got,to see if we can incorporate it here,” he said. “We haven’t got awhole lot of stores out in the county that are dealing with it yet.But now that the city has banned it, we’ve got to look at what’sout there.”

Rushing said from the rumblings he’s heard, the problem shouldbe addressed during the next state legislative session.

“Every day I read something else about it, and we just have toget it statewide,” he said. “I feel like we’re just waiting on thelegislature to get back in session, because several cities havebanned it now, and several counties, too.”

And back on the home front, McKennon said he and his band ofsupporters, wearing their white ribbons, will be at the next countyboard meeting to voice their feelings.

“This stuff is more addictive than marijuana,” he said. “Once akid gets hooked on it, it’s over.”