Anchorage ordinance aims to help police fight 'spice' sales

Nathaniel Herz

The Anchorage Assembly unanimously passed a new ordinance Tuesday evening that tries to crack down on the sale of designer drugs called Spice, which is often sold as potpourri or incense.

The measure attempts to regulate the drug by broadening its description in the city code, which would ease enforcement for the Anchorage Police Department.

“This is going to be a way for APD to identify this drug without chemically testing it,” said Municipal Prosecutor Cindy Franklin, who helped write the ordinance. “That’s why the definitions are so extensive.”

At their meeting Tuesday, Assembly members heard from a string of citizens who testified to the dangerous, erratic responses that some users have to Spice, which is sometimes marketed as a synthetic alternative to marijuana.

“I’ve had friends on this stuff, and I have seen the behavior,” said David Larrivee. “They can be like Jeckyl and Hyde.”

David Rittenberg, a program manager at the Brother Francis Shelter, said he has witnessed shelter users under the influence of the drug on a daily basis.

He said he had seen users suffering from mood swings, “uncontrollable rage” and seizures.

“It’s a very, very dangerous drug,” he said.

Franklin also testified before the Assembly, brandishing samples of the drug with names like Trainwreck Powerful Potpourri and Brain Freeze.

Police Chief Mark Mew said that in an interview that the new code is likely a temporary measure until authorities can develop better, less expensive drug tests, and more tailored language.

“It’s a stopgap,” he said. “But it’s something we can do here and now.”


Nathaniel Herz