Posted: Feb 28, 2012 5:46 PM by Michael Shingleton
Updated: Feb 28, 2012 6:31 PM
BATON ROUGE- Last week Alcohol and Tobacco Control announced it will suspend liquor and tobacco licenses for businesses caught selling synthetics.
ATC Commissioner Troy Hebert told News 2 he believes hitting businesses where it hurts most may be the break law enforcement across the state needs to shut these sales down.
"Fines are going to be one thing, and even jail time for some of them, but when you take away their bread and butter, which is going to be alcohol and tobacco sales, I think that should send a strong message," Hebert said.
One business in Hammond, La. is selling an herbal blend called "Skyscraper" which hit store shelves three days ago. The owner, Steve Spell, says he was out of business for months after the state outlawed and tightened laws against synthetics. Since then, he spent thousands of dollars testing Skyscraper at Tulane University for the banned chemical compounds spelled out in current law. Researchers found nothing illegal, and Spell moved forward with plans to sell it.
He says the state is missing out on tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales tax revenue by continuing to tighten laws against "herbal blends."
"I'm just one little business," he said. "We've got thousands of retail stores across the state that are doing this or attempting to do this and the governor says it is not impacting commerce, it's not impacting state revenue. While I'll stop short of saving that's fraud, I would say that the governor is out of touch with his own fiscal note that was attached to the bill that he signed."
That fiscal note included in 2011 House Bill 12 said the proposed law would cost the state nothing, but also said, "there is no anticipated direct material effect on state revenues as a result of this measure," which Spell beileves to be false.
Lawmakers will address broadening these laws once again. Senate Bill 61 empowers the secretary of the Department of Health and Hospitals to issue stop orders on certain dangerous substances. Spell thinks that is a violation of his constitutional rights.
"It is not up to me to determine what is a controlled and dangerous substance. I don't know what's safe and what's not. I don't sell the products for consumption, and I can't follow the customers home and find out what they're doing with it. What the law allows me to do is possess it, buy it, and sell it, and I'm trying to do that en masse," he said. "I'm trying to raise tax revenue, and I'm trying to make money."