A crowd chanted, marched and distributed flyers to curious onlookers Saturday, under the watchful eye of law enforcement, outside of D&M Market in Crab Orchard in opposition to the harmful products that are being sold by the store.
Sold under the guise of common household items, such as stain removers and incense, the products sold are more accurately described as dangerous, legal drugs. After they are smoked, injected or snorted, the user obtains a high and numerous other side effects, similar to that of cocaine or methamphetamine. It has been reported that several high school students have been placed either in jail or the hospital after using these products. D&M offers an assortment of designer, or analog drugs, like Funky Monkey and, more recently, Sparkle.
Karen Reed and Karen Carrier, two concerned mothers who organized the protest, have a personal reason for wanting to see these products removed from store shelves. Carrier’s teenage son consumed these drugs, which marked the beginning of his downward spiral. Serving several days in jail for public intoxication of an unknown substance, he is currently undergoing drug treatment. Both women know firsthand that these drugs not only affect the individuals, but entire families.
Protesters picketed on the sidewalk to the right and left of the store. They also gathered in the front, and it didn’t take long for D&M clerks to get agitated. They called Crab Orchard Constable Jesse Harris in an attempt to have them removed from the premises.
Harris is well aware of the problem, having received several phone calls complaining about the substances. “Parents were calling saying ‘My 15-year-old daughter is getting as high as a kite on this stuff…what can I do?’”
As far as law enforcement is concerned, they can’t do anything. None of these products had been included in the Bath Salts Ban, legislation passed earlier this year. Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department raided the store in May, but had to return the products after tests revealed that they were not illegal in nature.
The sheriff and several deputies watched the demonstration, ensuring that neither side got out of hand. “As long as they don’t block the entrance or exits, they are fine where they are,” Lincoln County Sheriff Curt Folger said. “They got permission from the city of Crab Orchard and the owners don’t own the sidewalks.”
Since law enforcement’s hands are tied, the community decided it is up to them to take a stand. Crab Orchard resident Rodney Reynolds, one of the first to arrive, is concerned with the already present drug problem. “This little town has a terrible problem with drugs and we just hope this [protest] can stop it.”
The only dialogue to occur between the employees of D&M and the protesters came in the first hour. It was little more than a spat; coming out of the store one clerk yelled “We have to pay our bills.”
Crab Orchard Mayor Billy Shelton would have liked to play a bigger role in the day’s events, but due to city ordinances he is not allowed to participate in any protests within the city. He is aware of the problem and would like to develop a committee between the county’s mayors and the judge executive to discuss the options.
Funeral home director Kyle McKnight is upset about the situation. “It’s a social ill that besets us,” McKnight said. “It grieves me that these products are making their way into the lives of our youth.” He stressed the need for the community to unite and stand up to “eradicate” this problem.
Local minister Dan Gutenson of Watts Chapel Baptist Church, shared many of the same feelings as those around him. “We have enough problems with illegal drugs, much less what you can buy over the counter.” He pointed out that, like so many others in the crowd, he did not want any harm to come to the establishment; the protest is not against the clerks that work at the store. When it comes right down to it, people just want this harmful stuff not to be sold to kids, Gutenson said.
D&M employees had a different perspective stating that they felt “targeted.” One clerk, who wished not to be identified, said that the protesters are “ignorant” and that they didn’t have their facts straight. She insists that anyone they deem under the age of 40 is carded and that they do not sell to minors as people have speculated.
Assistant Manager Brianna Hodge said that she too is tired of being “targeted and looked down upon.” Hodge said that if they even suspect that a person has the intention of misusing the product, they will refuse to sell it to them. “If they misuse it, it’s not our problem.” When brought to Hodge’s attention that they have in fact failed to card people, she responded that “normally we do card.”
A 15-year-old Lincoln County High School student came to show her support for the banning of these substances and told her personal story of addiction. She relocated to Lincoln County from Tennessee, but while down south she admits to taking these drugs. “They are pretty much the real thing” and she wants to warn kids of the dangers. “People smoke this stuff and they pass out. It’s not anything to put in your body,” she said. She began chanting: “Up with hope, down with dope.”
Motorists slowed down as they came around the curve to accept flyers distributed by the protesters, explaining the harmful effects of Sparkle. On some occasions, people returned, grabbed an extra sign and joined the demonstrators. Joann Tudor, of Somerset, said they weren’t hurting anybody and that it’s a peaceful protest. Her grandchildren live in Lincoln and felt it was important for her to show support for the community.
The general consensus among law enforcement and residents is that further legislation is required. It needs to be broader to include more ingredients used to produce these substances. In the past it has been easy for manufacturers to make the slightest change in structure, keeping them legal.
Reed wrote to Governor Beshear and that letter was forwarded to the Office of Drug Control Policy. The response, dated Nov. 16, is full of general information, but does offer a glimmer of hope. It states that the Office of Drug Control Policy, Kentucky State Police and the Legislative Research Commission are in the progress of drafting legislation in response to this issue; it should be ready for the 2012 Legislative session.
Over the four hours that they protested, they hoped that their concerns would be heard loud and clear. Along with The Interior Journal, two television news stations covered the protest.
Now only time will tell if any substantial and tangible results will come of their efforts. It is up to legislatures to pass laws banning these substances, allowing law enforcement to do their job, and remove legal drugs from store shelves, not only throughout Lincoln County, but the entire state.