Push to ban “mojo” is expanding

Published 2:33 pm Friday, July 9, 2010

Since the Pearl River County supervisors adopted on June 21 an order directing the board’s attorney to draw up a resolution banning the sale and distribution of what is called “mojo” in the county, other area public officials have moved to ban the substance, too, which is being called a “synthetic marijuana.”

If the trend continues, that the substance will be outlawed pretty much everywhere, as is naturally grown marijuana.

Called Spice, Triple XXX, Mojo, Spice Gold, Sugar Sticks, the substance is sold widely by tobacco shops, quick stops and small grocery stores as “herbal incense” with a disclaimer on it saying “not for human consumption.”

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However, users roll it to smoke as reefers and also smoke it in their pipes. It is reported to be two to three times stronger than marijuana.

A Jackson County sheriff’s deputy told supervisors in that county this week that 85 percent to 95 percent of corner stores are selling the product, and at a premium price, the Associated Press reported.

Lt. Curtis Spiers, commander of Jackson County’s narcotics task force, said a half-ounce of marijuana will go for $35 to $40, but Spice sells for $350 to $400.

On June 21, just before PRC supervisors voted to have an ordinance drawn up to ban the sale of the substance, Poplarville police officer, Capt. Rossie Creel, who has compiled a dossier on local use of the product, told supervisors that local stores and shops were selling it for approximately $60 for a 3-ounce bag. The price varies, however, he said. “They get what they can for it,” he told supervisors.

Creel said Poplarville police asked a local tobacco shop to stop selling it, and the owner said he would not because he was making too much money off it and it was not illegal to sell it.

Creel also told supervisors on June 21 that Pearl River Community College campus security officials told Poplarville police department investigators that the use of the product was widespread on the PRCC campus and there is no way to prevent it being used because it is not against the law to possess and use it.

The attorney for the board of supervisors, Joe Montgomery, on June 28 told supervisors that he was in the process of drawing up an ordinance, after being instructed by supervisors, banning the sale in the county and said “it’s complicated.”

He said that because there are so many laws covering marijuana and its use and sale in Mississippi, that any law targeting “mojo” has to be precise and worded accurately.

He said it will take about 60 days to draw up a county statute covering the product.

There was some question of whether or not the county has jurisdiction over the matter and the legal authority to write a law banning the substance, but supervisors took the action on June 21 of banning it anyway.

Supervisor Hudson Holliday, following Creel’s presentation to the board and after moving that it be made illegal, said, “I think we ought to just outlaw it, and if they don’t like it, let them do something about it. We should ban it in Pearl River County and let someone take us to court.”

Supervisors then voted 5-0 to ban it.

Creel said that the state would probably look at banning it in January, but Holliday said the county should go ahead and do it, since the state will move slowly on the matter, and in the end, might not ban it at all.

On June 25, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal signed into law a bill that prohibits the manufacture, sale and possession of the product. Penalties attached in Louisiana to handling the product will be identical to those attached to naturally grown marijuana, the AP reported.

Pearl River County supervisors told Montgomery that they wanted a fine of $2,500 and a jail sentence of 30 days attached to the law he is drawing up in connection with the first offense.

Sheriff David Allison, who was at the June 21 supervisors’ meeting, said that if and when the law is passed, he will immediately begin enforcing it in the county and also within the county’s two municipalities, Picayune and Poplarville.

The Associated Press reported Wednesday that Moss Point and Gautier are considering making the sale and use of the “chemically laced incense” illegal, and that Ocean Springs and Jackson County are in the process of implementing similar bans.

According to investigators, the products are sprayed with synthetic compounds similar to Delta 9 THC, the substance that occurs naturally in marijuana and gives it its hallucinogenic properties.

Jackson County plans a vote on the issue on July 12; Pascagoula’s city council plans to discuss the issue on July 20, and Ocean Springs Mayor Connie Moran said she will probably make a recommendation to that city’s board on July 20.

Pearl River County administrator Adrain Lumpkin told the supervisors on June 21 that Horn Lake and Southhaven in North Mississippi were planning to ban the substance, too. Officials said Alabama officials are also talking about banning it.

(Dispatches from the Associated Press were used in the compilation of this story.)