Utah appeals court upholds law against ‘Spice’ and similar drugs

Posted at 7:48 AM, Feb 04, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-04 09:48:39-05

SALT LAKE CITY — The state’s appeals court has upheld a challenge to how Utah’s controlled substance law is interpreted, reiterating that “Spice” and similar drugs are illegal.

In a ruling issued late Friday, the Utah Court of Appeals rejected a challenge by a St. George business, whose license was revoked for selling a substance police claimed was similar to “Spice.” Mike’s Smoke, Cigar & Gifts lost its business license in 2013 after agents with the Washington County Drug Task Force made undercover buys for “Spice” and were sold a product called “Reborn.”

“The store manager or one of the owners stated that Mike’s purchased Reborn from a man they knew only by his first name. The store manager told the detective that he sells Reborn only to customers nineteen years of age or older and that they must ask for it by name. He also told the detective that he tells customers that they will go to jail if they smoke it,” Judge Frederic Voros wrote.

“Reborn” comprised 30-percent of the store’s daily sales, Judge Voros wrote in the ruling.

The Washington County Drug Task Force claimed testing of “Reborn” showed it was chemically similar to the synthetic marijuana known as “Spice,” which is illegal in Utah. The City of St. George revoked Mike’s business license, which then took it to court.

Mike’s argued an incorrect reading of Utah’s Controlled Substance Analog statute.

“Mike’s argues that a literal reading of the Analog Statute yields absurd results. Specifically, Mike’s argues that tobacco, energy drinks, and even monosodium glutamate could fall within the Analog Statute’s definition of a controlled substance under a disjunctive reading,” Judge Voros wrote.

“Second, Mike’s argues that the canon of constitutional avoidance is ‘useful’ here because it counsels against adopting one of two plausible constructions of a statute on the ground that it would raise grave doubts as to the statute’s constitutionality.”

In the ruling, Judge Voros said the Utah Court of Appeals sees no ambiguity in the controlled substance law. It upheld a lower court’s ruling backing the City of St. George’s decision to revoke the business license.

Read the Utah Court of Appeals ruling here: