NEW ULM — A New Ulm store will have its tobacco-sales license renewed after agreeing to cease sales of a legal herbal incense that produces a drug high when ingested.
The City Council on June 5 denied Smokes 4 Less renewal of its license, which is about to expire. The council’s rationale was that although the product is legal, the common smoking of it as a marijuana substitute can have harmful effects on users.
Store attorney Sara Wilson of New Ulm, in a letter to the city attorney, said the store would end sales of herbal incense in order to obtain license renewal.
“Smokes 4 Less has not committed any illegal activity at its store,” she wrote. “It is, however, willing to take into consideration the desires and concerns of the New Ulm community.”
The impetus for the council’s non-renewal stance came from council member Les Schultz, director of Brown County’s probation department. Schultz said he sees first-hand the damage that can result from the consumption of synthetic cannabinoids (”fake marijuana”).
“I deal with this every day in this building,” Schultz said Monday from his office.
He said 40 states have banned synthetic marijuana products. In March the Minnesota House of Representatives voted 120-11 to expand an existing law against the sale and manufacture of synthetic marijuana. The latest act makes 250 additional chemicals illegal — specifically those contained in tobacco store products.
There also is a move afoot to federally criminalize the possession, distribution and manufacture of synthetic pot and synthetic stimulants commonly marketed as “bath salts.”
A Smokes 4 Less store in Mankato has a license that is valid until year’s end. The City Council hasn’t formally discussed the issue.