Responding to warnings from police and drug prevention advocates, Rock Hill leaders on Monday passed a ban on synthetic marijuana, a chemically-coated mix of herbs and spices popular among teens.
Many stores already have agreed to stop selling the product, said Police Chief John Gregory. Others will be notified of the ban, which would take effect after a second and final City Council vote next month.
Teens and young adults use the product as a legal way to get high - and find it cheap at convenience stores and online, local officials say.
Health risks involve more than a bad hangover. Rapid heart rate, dangerously high blood pressure and hallucinations are among the side effects.
A student at Winthrop University thought she was a squirrel and ate nuts after using synthetic marijuana, said Jane Alleva of the York County All On Board Coalition.
In another incident, a high school student wielded a knife and deputies had to intervene to protect the teen from harming himself.
"We started hearing stories about the use of K2 in our schools," Alleva said.
The mix is often sold in small plastic bags of dried leaves and marketed as incense that can be smoked.
Rock Hill would be the first city in South Carolina to impose a ban, the coalition says. Violators - including customers and stores - would face fines of $500 for misdemeanor offenses. South Carolina might soon pass a statewide ban that would supersede Rock Hill's version.
"I feel very strongly about this," said Councilwoman Susie B. Hinton, who pushed for the policy. "I was just so alarmed, and I said, 'We have to do something.'"
Reviewing bus route
Over strong objections from Councilman Kevin Sutton, Rock Hill agreed to move forward with plans to revamp a CATS commuter bus route that connects to light rail in Charlotte.
The 78X Celanese Express has struggled with low ridership, prompting Sutton to push for its cancelation.
"We should have stopped the 78X route last year and we didn't do it," Sutton said. "When we have a program that's not working, we shouldn't keep asking for funds."
Transit planners hope a new route will attract more riders. The bus would stop at a park-and-ride lot at Rock Hill's Home Depot shopping center, and in Fort Mill at the Bi-Lo on S.C. 160 and a Bloom on Regent Parkway. The service averages between nine and 12 round-trip passengers per day, according to CATS figures.
By expanding the service to Fort Mill and northern York County, those two jurisdictions would take on equal shares of the $27,000 annual price tag, city officials said.
The 78X bus line might need to be shelved unless ridership picks up, said Councilwoman Kathy Pender.
"Without any revamping, this cannot continue," she said.