NEW ULM - The New Ulm City Council denied a renewal of a cigarette license for the new Smokes 4 Less business.
The new business was a subject a recent New Ulm Police Department and Brown-Redwood-Renville-Lincoln-Lyon Drug Task Force investigation, during which an undercover officer purchased herbal incense packages believed to contain the recently banned synthetic marijuana additives. The packages were sent to state facilities for testing, but the results have not yet been returned.
The investigation is due to a recent national trend where people have smoked or ingested the laced incense despite posted warnings against it. Often laced with synthetic cannabinoids, the incense can create a high similar to marijuana. The chemicals can also have dangerous side effects, such as heart complications.
Sam Tabate, the owner of the New Ulm's Smokes 4 Less, has previously maintained they are not designed for human consumption and that his products are in compliance with state laws.
Councilor Les Schultz was the primary force behind the denial. He delivered a fiery speech against the business. His objections were based on his experience as director of the Brown County Probation Department.
"I cannot and will not support this license. We have people on probation that have purchased and used this product from this institution," said Schultz, "It is an illegal substance. It can cause death. I'm personally dealing with those that are using this product every day."
Following the meeting, Schultz said his first hand experience made him 100 percent confident that the chemical laced incense was being sold for drug-related purposes. He said that he was so confident that he didn't care what the results returned with the drug test conducted by the police.
"This store comes from Mankato, where we know they sell it. I don't want to see this in our community," said Schultz.
City Attorney Hugh Nierengarten suggested to the Council that if they had serious concerns about the store, they could deny the license and see if the owner was willing to fight them on it.
Schultz stated that he had no problem with other products at Smokes 4 Less.
Nierengarten suggested denying the renewal of the license with the intent of allowing the business to re-apply with stipulations. The Council approved the motion to deny the renewal of the license
Smokes 4 Less currently has a cigarette license that lasts until June 30. The business has the opportunity until then to challenge the motion.