ST. GEORGE – For a second time, the St. George City Council revoked Mike’s Smoke & Cigar Gifts’ business license Thursday.
The City Council originally revoked the store’s business license following two raids conducted by the Washington County Drug Task Force that resulted in the arrest of Kyle Best, the store’s manager in January 2013. The arrest stemmed from the task force’s suspicion that he was selling a brand of spice called “Reborn” through the smoke shop.
Best was charged with a class-A misdemeanor offense for possessing a controlled substance with intent to distribute. He pleaded “no contest” to the charge in March.
Christina Best, Kyle Best’s sister, now manages the smoke shop, located on Sunset Boulevard, as well as another smoke shop in Washington City. She said there haven’t been any issues between the city and the store since the events surrounding her brother’s arrest.
St. George City Attorney Shawn Guzman confirmed the smoke shop’s St. George location hasn’t been a problem since the former manager’s arrest, when Councilman Jimmie Hughes asked about the matter during Thursday’s meeting.
Guzman told the council that it had the authority to revoke a business license if that business violated the law or if an employee of the business violated the law while on the business premises. Best had been arrested for doing the latter, Guzman said, and so the smoke shop’s business license was subsequently revoked.
During the council’s June 5 meeting, Ryan Holdaway, attorney for the smoke shop’s owners, argued the city was revoking the license twice for the same crime. At the time, the City Council tabled the matter.
The City Council could suspend, revoke or terminate the smoke shop’s business license based on the evidence the city had collected against the business. Guzman said.
For their part, the smoke shop owners, through Holdaway, have argued that Reborn wasn’t an illegal substance because it wasn’t spice. That is, it didn’t contain chemicals listed as illegal by the state. However, the city argues the chemicals used in Reborn are designed to mimic the effects of spice, which itself is a synthetic drug designed to mimic the effects of marijuana. Tests conducted on Reborn samples sent to the Utah Crime Lab by the task force support the city’s claim that chemicals found in the samples are spice mimics, Guzman said.
Spice wasn’t considered an illegal substance until late 2010, when a handful of chemicals used to make the synthetic drug at the time were outlawed by the Drug Enforcement Administration. Since then, new chemicals have been added to national and state listings as spice makers attempt to stay a step ahead of the law by using new chemicals not yet listed as illegal by authorities.
Guzman said a danger of spice is that buyers never quite know what they’re getting as the synthetic blend can be a potentially deadly a mishmash of chemicals.
“It’s totally uncontrolled,” he said.
When Mike’s Smoke & Cigar Gifts was raided, chemicals found in Reborn, such as XLR-11, were not considered illegal, Holdaway previously said. The store owners also maintain they didn’t know the substance they were selling was considered by the city and state to be illegal in the first place.
Councilwoman Michele Randall doesn’t agree. During the meeting, she said she believed the smoke shop owners knew what they were selling and were complicit in the matter.
XLR-11 has since been added to the state’s list of prohibited spice analogs, or chemically created mimics, Guzman said.
“It’s the position of the city that it is illegal,” he said.
Before the City Council took a vote, Guzman emphasized the council was voting on possibly revoking the business license based on the sale of an illegal substance at the smoke shop and not because the council disapproved of the shop itself.
The city is pro-business, Mayor Jon Pike said, adding the City Council has a responsibility to uphold the law and promote public safety.
The City Council voted unanimously to revoke the smoke shop’s license for a second time.
Following the council meeting, Christina Best reiterated that the St. George location hadn’t had any trouble with police or the city aside from the license issue.
“We’re extremely strict,” she said, adding that anyone attempting to enter the smoke shop, let alone buy anything inside, has to be the appropriate age.
As her family owns and manages the stores, Christina Best said, the ordeal of the last 18 months hasn’t gone well for them.
“This whole thing has torn the family apart,” she said.
In contrast to how events have transpired between the city and the St. George location, the Washington City store has had no major issues, Christina Best said. She has been able to work out any potential issues between the smoke shop and Washington City officials without much trouble.
Between the two store locations, 10 workers are employed, she said.
The St. George location may remain open for the time being until the city issues an official notice of revocation with a specific date attached, Guzman said.
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