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Longview council votes to ban sale of fake marijuana

By Jimmy Isaac jisaac@news-journal.com
Aug. 12, 2010 at 7:15 p.m.


After a local resident shared her "personal incidence with someone influenced by K2," Councilwoman Sidney Bell Willis on Thursday asked what the substance is.

"It's a fake drug," Police Chief J.B. McCaleb said, "but it has real consequences."

Council members at their regular meeting later banned the possession of K2 and other forms of synthetic marijuana within the Longview city limits. Violations are punishable up to a $500 fine.

Police today will alert local tobacco shops and stores of the new ordinance, McCaleb said. Enforcement begins next week.

Synthetic marijuana products such as K2, Summitt and Knock-out 2 share ingredients that mimic the psychoactive ingredient of marijuana by acting on the cannobinoid receptors in the brain.

Longview followed Marshall, Jasper and Troup - along with five states, nine countries and the U.S. Army - in banning the substances.

North Longview resident Ginger Case said a man several weeks ago who suffered a reaction to K2 disturbed her neighborhood ran through a plate glass window, attacked her husband and hopped a fence toward her, leaving a trail of blood in her neighbor's backyard. No one was seriously injured, and the man was charged with misdemeanor assault, she said.

"I hadn't even heard of (K2)," Case told council members, "but I'm aware of it now."

Sheriff Maxey Cerliano said he plans to ask an assistant district attorney whether Gregg County could issue a special order about K2. However, he believes the county does not have the same authority as cities in setting ordinances and regulations.

Before the council's unanimous vote on K2, members praised City Manager David Willard's $145.01 million budget proposal. Meanwhile, Mayor Jay Dean set the record straight on the Longview Fire Department cadet program.

At a July 22 council meeting, Willis expressed dismay at Willard's decision to cut the program, because it was created by former Chief Michael Pruitt to recruit minorities.

Dean corrected Willis on Thursday, saying the cadet program was never intended to recruit minorities, but to recruit firefighters who lack necessary paramedic training. Interim Chief J.P. Steelman said former Chief Rick Lazarus created the program before his 2007 retirement; Lazarus was Pruitt's predecessor.

"If we were going to use that program to recruit minorities, we were an utter failure," Dean said "We recruited one (minority), and that one is a fireman today."

Assistant Fire Chief Curtis Shaw said the department in 2009 instituted the Explorer Program. So far, eight area students age 14 through high school graduates meet twice a month to learn fire skills. Shaw said at least three of the participants are minorities.

Willard said he is looking for ways to retain the $180,000-a-year cadet program, especially since some 40 firefighters among the city's 160-plus firefighter/paramedics are eligible to retire today.

Councilman Daryl Williams said Willard "did an excellent job of following the directive from council and mayor" to cut spending and not increase the tax rate.

Council members have until Sept. 30 to approve a tax rate and budget.

In another matter, Red Oak Baptist Church pastor and local NAACP leader the Rev. Homer C. Rockmore said some members of his congregation have "a lot of strong feelings" about a July 29 incident in which Longview police chased a four-wheeling teen through a crowded church parking lot.

Councilman Williams said he was at Red Oak for its revival service when at least four police cars chased the four-wheeler through the lot.

"I thought the pursuit could have been excessive with the number of people walking through the parking lot," Williams said.

McCaleb said the teen was wanted on more serious charges. An Internal Affairs investigation has been launched in the case.

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