MARIETTA - A new business believed to be selling bath salts opened just outside Marietta Thursday, the same day city officials voted to make the drugs illegal.
Herbal Incense Head Shop opened along Ohio 7 in the Reno area, outside of city limits and the reach of the new ordinance.
"They just opened today but we want them out of here," Marietta Township Trustee Dan Ritchey said Thursday night after learning about the business from a local law enforcement officer.
"The township trustees are very concerned," he said. "This business is within walking distance of a mobile home park and the Cedarbark apartment complex."
It was not clear Thursday night whether the business was selling the synthetic drugs packaged as bath salts but Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks said deputies are monitoring the establishment.
The ordinance passed by Marietta City Council and signed immediately into law by Mayor Michael Mullen Thursday night prohibits "the use, possession, and/or sale of synthetic cannabinoids and other synthetic drugs" in Marietta.
The legislation includes a provision that the ordinance will expire without further council action on the effective date of Ohio House Bill 64, a similar state law governing synthetic drugs that won't take effect until 90 days after Gov. John Kasich's signature.
"This is a stop-gap ordinance that will expire within 90 days but in those three months that could cost us tens of thousands of dollars for rescue runs, police work and it could cost lives," said Councilman David White, R-1st Ward, who chairs council's police and fire committee.
Councilman Mike McCauley, D-2nd Ward, agreed.
"I taught school for 17 years, and got so tired of seeing students who didn't make graduation due to an overdose of drugs," he said. "This is devastating and is costing lives."
A man who identified himself as Mike Lucas from Charleston said he had been retained for public relations by several businesses that sell incense and bath salts.
He addressed council during the public comments segment of Thursday's meeting.
"Everyone in this industry has some questions," Lucas said. "Are these laws putting them out of business? This law would make pretty much everything they sell illegal."
He said the ordinance passed Thursday should include testing of the ingredients of products being sold.
"(These businesses) are at the mercy of their distributors," he said. "They want to know how they can operate within the law."
The legislation states that it is unlawful to "knowingly or under circumstances where one reasonably should know, to display for sale or possess with intent to distribute any product" containing substances included in the law's definition of synthetic drugs.
Councilman Jon Grimm, R-3rd Ward, said he was glad the ordinance was being passed now.
"But I feel somewhat embarrassed that we haven't addressed this issue before," he said.
Only one location in Marietta, Herbal Safari at 136 N. Seventh St., has been identified as a seller of bath salts, . and Marietta law director Roland Riggs III said the city would give the owners "fair warning" before taking any action against the business.
Marietta Police, Washington County Sheriff's Office, Marietta Memorial Hospital personnel and several private citizens encouraged passage of the ordinance.
As for the business that opened Thursday near Reno, Ritchey said the township trustees would be willing to pay for a sheriff's deputy to be stationed at the head shop location to keep an eye on the business.
He said the trustees would also approach the county commissioners about enacting a law similar to the Marietta ordinance that would cover areas outside the city limits.