Denham Springs — The city of Denham Springs may soon be able to collect money from the growing number of criminals fined for possession of synthetic marijuana.
Possession of the drugs is already illegal, but money from fines goes to the local judicial district. Enacting a municipal ordinance would allow the fine money to stay in the city, explained City Prosecutor Blayne Honeycutt, who suggested the measure.
According to the proposed ordinance, the maximum fine for possession would be $500. It also would carry a maximum jail sentence of 60 days. Both punishments are identical to the punishment for possession of marijuana.
Clerk of Court Peggy Hoover said the fine levied against offenders varies from case to case and depends on prior offenses.
A year or two ago, synthetic marijuana in Denham Springs was practically unheard of, but now the city sees a case or two every week, Honeycutt said in a Tuesday phone interview.
The prosecutor suggested the city consider an ordinance, which he said is based on the language found in state law.
The ordinance lists 28 chemical groups by their scientific names, such as “quinolinylindolecarboxylates” and “naphthymethylindoles.” Enforcement of synthetic marijuana regulations can be difficult if producers change their formulas to skirt the law, but Honeycutt believes the proposed ordinance will meet the city’s needs.
“I think it’s the best we can do at this time, and if we have to amend it later we will,” he said.
Mayor Gerard Landry agreed.
“The way it’s written, it’s pretty broad-based,” he said.
A number of city officials said it is unclear how much money would flow into the city from synthetic marijuana fines if the ordinance is passed.
“It’s not exactly going to be a profit center for us,” Landry said.
“It’s not a money issue for us.”
During Tuesday’s meeting, the City Council sent the issue forward without comment.
It will go up for public comment at their next meeting at 6 p.m. March 23 in the Denham Springs Municipal Building.
Follow Steve Hardy on Twitter, @SteveRHardy.