MUSKOGEE -- A Muskogee convenience store owner is firing back after the city passed an ordinance banning the sale and purchase of synthetic drugs.
Biren Desai, owner of Sunshine Convenience Store, says a recently passed synthetic drug ordinance is infringing on his rights without just due cause and has filed a lawsuit against the City of Muskogee.
Last month, city officials declared "possession, use, sale or display of synthetic cannabinoids and incense" to be a "public nuisance." The ordinance went into effect June 1.
Desai said the day the ordinance was passed, he took his product off the shelf.
"I want to abide by the law. I am abiding by the law. My objection is they banned this unconstitutionally. They used public safety to supersede federal and state law. Tomorrow they could decide cigarettes are banned for public safety."
Prior to the ordinance, Desai sold herbal incense, which is banned under the ordinance.
Click here to read the full ordinance (http://bit.ly/19m7550)
"The misconception is it is a drug. If it were, it would be labeled as that. It is incense. Federal government and even state government has taken a stand on synthetic drugs, and this product is being sold everywhere outside of Muskogee."
Muskogee Assistant City Attorney Mark Beese said officials spent about seven months studying "synthetic cannabinoids and incense" sold among at least seven different businesses in the city, before drafting the ordinance.
Through their investigation, the city also found because many synthetic cannabinoids are made overseas, there is no regulatory oversight, so side effects – agitation, extreme anxiety, paranoia, psychosis and violent behavior – can be common.
Desai believes if something goes wrong, the product has been misused.
"These are incense that have chemicals that are being misused. People are being harmed by the misuse of the product."
Desai said that "misinformation" throughout the Muskogee community has caused him to lose much of his business in recent weeks.
"It has caused a lot of damage because people think we are selling drugs."
A petition hearing is scheduled July 2.
"The misconception is I am doing this for money. I wasn't selling this very long before the ordinance. I make much more money selling soda drinks and other products in the store.
"My reason for this lawsuit is federal and state laws have not banned it and there is anecdotal research behind (the city's) findings. There is no analytical or statistical information that they have presented."
Along with Sunshine Convenience Store, Desai says there are two or three other Muskogee businesses that are also in support of his lawsuit.