ABILENE, Texas - The clock has started ticking for Abilene "head shops" to move from near churches, parks, hospitals and schools.
The shops, which are generally smoke shops, will have four months to relocate.
Last Thursday, the Abilene City Council approved an ordinance to force shops that sell synthetic drugs into heavy commercial or heavy or light industrial areas.
Since the ordinance was considered a matter of emergency, Thursday was the first and final reading.
The businesses wouldn't be allowed to set up shop within 600 feet of churches, parks and hospitals, 2,500 feet of schools, and within 1,000 feet of each other.
Police Chief Stan Standridge has said 10 such shops are actively selling synthetic drugs within the city.
According to Standridge, the synthetic drugs are made to mimic the effects of marijuana; however, the side effects of synthetic marijuana include seizures, hallucinations, fits of anger and vomiting, among other things.
Two weeks ago, the Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously recommended that head shops only be allowed in heavy commercial or heavy or light industrial areas.
Currently, the majority of these shops are located in residential areas.
Many people stood up Thursday to share personal stories of how their own lives had been affected by synthetic drugs, and to support the ordinance.
"This is killing our young people," said Sherry Hicks.
"I had anxiety, depression, bi-polar [disorder symptoms]. I never had to deal with any of this before and it's just ruining lives," said Joshua Smith, a past user.
There were employees of shops present at the meeting but none of them stood up to speak against the ordinance.
After it was passed, those who did speak up said they hope it's just the beginning of the road to getting synthetic drugs out of the community for good.
"It's a great first step to finally maybe being able to get rid of these products and these stores," said Joshua Smith.
"I'm really excited about it," said Hicks. "It's a great first step to fixing the problem."
"We want to make sure that these businesses know we don't want them here," said Joshua's Mother, Jill Smith. "We want them gone."
The Council also discussed making a strong community push to get the State Legislature to move forward with banning more of the chemicals used to make synthetic drugs.
Councilman Robert Briley, Place 4, will be meeting with Gov. Perry in Austin Thursday evening regarding the legislation.
"I plan to speak to him about the synthetic marijuana in the special session.," said Briley. "If we can get something done there and show the sense of urgency....we're all worried about our youth and the integrity of the products these people are selling."
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