Owners promise not to sell spice; City reinstates business licenses

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Three city convenience stores that had their business licenses revoked abruptly last week are officially allowed to resume business, after a unanimous vote at City Hall on Aug. 19.

Click here to view the agenda and affidavits from the hearing.
TN Gas and Convenience store.

The three businesses, TN Gas and Convenience, Union Street Market and Han’s Market, were shut down by the City Clerk’s office Aug. 13 in the midst of a “public health emergency,” after more than 40 people suffered acute medical emergencies – including seizures and people becoming unresponsive. Police said the illnesses were a side-effect of ingesting “spice,” a synthetic drug that the city alleges was sold by the three stores.

On Aug. 18 a superior court judge granted an injunction to one of the stores, TN Gas and Convenience, after Alderman-At-Large Joe Kelly Levasseur filed a motion for relief from the revocation, saying the store did not sell the targeted brand, Smacked, in bubblegum flavor.

Levasseur, who is also an attorney, said he decided to take on the case –  even though it involves the city –  because the market owner is a friend and constituent, and Lavesseur believed the city violated the store owner’s rights.

Superior Court Judge Diane Nicolosi in her decision to grant the injunction said the city violated of the store-owners’ right to due process.

According to Manchester Fire Chief James Burkush, the calls for service during the rash of overdoses resulted in $18,870 in ambulance charges that would be billed out by AMR to those 51 patients who overdosed on spice and were transported to local hospitals.

“Some of these were multi-patient calls, but we had more than 40 calls for service. The result was that we had to bring in mutual aid ambulances because we didn’t have enough units to cover our calls,” Burkush said.

During a 30-minute closed door session Tuesday at City Hall, Mayor Ted Gatsas sat in the back of the Aldermanic Chambers awaiting the vote of the committee.

He declined to respond to comments made by Levasseur, who said Gatsas “made a mistake” by shutting down the businesses.

“I would do it again – one hundred times, the same way,” Gatsas said. “It’s easy to understand that when you take 40 overdosed patients in a 48-hour period, there’s a problem. It’s no different than if Chief Burkush called and said we’ve had 10 arsons in 10 hours. You have to do something,” Gatsas said.

Gatsas relayed a conversation he had last weekend, while interacting with someone at a city festival.

“A woman came up and said, ‘Mayor, you did the right thing. My husband is addicted to spice.’ She wasn’t from Manchester, but if 40 states have banned this product, why haven’t we? We know it can be deadly. I think we should be taking a look at banning it here in New Hampshire.” Gatsas said.

He said he hopes Gov. Maggie Hassan will take action at the state level to ban the spice, which is also known as K2 or synthetic marijuana.

Chief David Mara said police will continue to abide by the law.

“We did not shut down any stores; the city clerk’s office did, but we concur with what city clerk did. There was a public health emergency. We had dozens of people having seizures, dozens of people passing out, the Manchester ambulance service was tied up, emergency rooms were tied up and we were able to reduce the number of problems from this drug to zero,” Mara said.

He also said a statewide meeting is planned led by U.S. Attorney John Kacavas, to include NH Attorney General David Foster and representatives from Manchester Police.


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About Carol Robidoux 5212 Articles
Journalist and editor of ManchesterInkLink.com, a hyperlocal news and information site for Manchester, NH.