Lake Station 'hippie boutique' files complaint against city over fake marijuana ban same day as fed ban
LAKE STATION | A Lake Station business owner has filed a complaint Monday seeking to overturn a city ordinance banning the purchase, sale or possession of synthetic marijuana. Later in the day, the U.S Drug Enforcement Administration used its emergency powers to ban the fake pot products.
"The (DEA) is using its emergency scheduling authority to temporarily control five chemicals ... used to make 'fake pot' products," the agency announced in a release. "Except as authorized by law, this action will make possessing and selling these chemicals or the products that contain them illegal in the U.S. for at least one year while the DEA and the United States Department of Health and Human Services further study whether these chemicals and products should be permanently controlled."
Shawn Hutchens, president and owner of Green Fields Trading Co., 2235 Ripley St., claims in a complaint against Lake Station that he has lost and will continue to lose 50 percent of his business because of the city ordinance.
The business, referred to as a "hippie boutique" by a Green Fields employee, sells a number of items, including clothing, jewelry, statues, incense, tobacco and tobacco accessories.
The complaint against the city was filed in Lake Circuit Court by attorneys Michael Deppe and Katrina Spence.
Deppe, who was traveling, said he has heard rumors of the feds' action, but as of Wednesday night he had not received confirmation.
"If something comes down, my client will comply, as he is now under the local," Deppe said.
Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist was elated to learn of the federal government's action late Wednesday.
"It's absolutely good news for the city," Soderquist said. "I had faith that this would come down eventually."
Soderquist said the city's ordinance was adopted -- after first discussing the matter for a number of weeks with both police and legal counsel -- because officials felt it was in the best interest of residents.
"The major problem is that the substance can be sold to anyone of any age, even a child, and we don't want it sold in our community. We feel it's unsafe," he said.
Hutchens, who could not be reached for comment Wednesday, in the complaint had sought a temporary restraining order to prevent the ordinance's enforcement while the case works its way through the courts.
The complaint also called for unspecified damages from the city of Lake Station.
The Lake Station City Council passed the ordinance Oct. 7, banning the purchase, sale or possession of "synthetic cannibinoids," which are sometimes referred to as Spice, K2 or Mr. Smiley.
City Attorney Ray Szarmach said Lake Station officials have the right to ban the sale and possession of the product under home rule.
Several other cities and towns in Northwest Indiana also have approved similar ordinances in recent months.
And, most recently, officials in both Hobart and Merrillville approved resolutions asking state legislators to make the synthetic marijuana illegal.
Deppe, whose law office is in Lake Station, formerly served as legal counsel for the Lake Station City Council.