- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 15, 2017

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - Store owners in a northern Indiana city who are caught selling synthetic marijuana can now be fined up to $2,500.

The South Bend Common Council voted unanimously Monday to include dealing the drug on a list of behaviors that can qualify a property as a “disorderly house,” the South Bend Tribune reported .

Under the new code, the city can fine property owners from $250 to $2,500 for a violation.

Police chief Scott Ruszkowski said the designation gives South Bend a new way to address the drug issue, which has escalated since initial steps to curb abuse and sales in 2011.

“We want to give business owners, people who are distributing or selling this, a chance at redemption to get rid of the stuff, not to do it in our community,” Ruszkowski said.

The police department is creating a voluntary agreement that store owners can sign to show their pledge to stop selling the drug.

“The first message will be, please don’t do this at all, you’re hurting our community,” he said. “The second message would be, if you don’t (stop), we’re going to do a civil component and you could be fined $250 to $2,500. The third component would be that civil penalty and criminal. We don’t want to do that. We want our businesses to flourish.”

Indiana lawmakers banned a type of the synthetic drug in 2011. But new forms have been created that are different enough in formula that they’re treated differently legally.

“This stuff keeps changing,” Council President Tim Scott said. “What they’re trying to do is get around the law as much as they can get around the law, tweak the formula, and this is something that’s probably going to come back up before this council over and over again.”

Synthetic marijuana is typically leafy material meant to resemble marijuana that has been sprayed with chemicals.

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Information from: South Bend Tribune, https://www.southbendtribune.com


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