Possession or sale of products such as K2 can carry third-degree felony charges.
They come packaged as herbal incense, branded as K2 and Spice.
But Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri began reminding store owners Monday these products are hardly potpourri but rather a dangerous, synthetic form of pot.
“There isn’t anybody in their right mind who knows they’re looking at this product and thinks some 16-year-old kid is going to buy this for $6 at a gas station and taking it home to make their room smell better. They’re not,” Gualtieri said. “They’re smoking it, and it’s causing serious health issues and causing kids to die.”
Deputies plan to call on retailers to comply with laws that went into effect Monday that prohibit the sale of the products, which are classified as controlled substances.
“We want the convenience store owners, the gas station owners in Pinellas County to show responsibility in this issue and voluntarily stop,” Gualtieri said. “It’s not just about making a buck. It’s about doing the right thing.”
Under the new Florida law, 92 chemicals have been added to a list of previously banned synthetic marijuana substances. The synthetic products have been banned before, but manufacturers skirt laws by changing the mixtures.
“The Legislature bans the substances, so they alter the compound, alter it slightly to take it outside of what’s banned, then the Legislature bans it again and they alter the compound,” the sheriff said. “This really needs to stop.”
Notices will be passed out to stores warning of the drugs’ dangers, Gualtieri said.
Authorities have said the products can cause side effects that range from increased aggression to hallucinations.
“We know from the phone calls, the problems with emergency room visits, we know from the phone calls from parents and friends and everyone out there, that this product is extremely dangerous,” Sgt. Dan Zsido said. “Basically, you’re playing Russian roulette with your health and your life.”
Zsido, a member of the sheriff’s office’s Narcotics Division, said the effect of the synthetic drug is “10 times stronger than marijuana.” Among the reactions are elevated blood pressure and heart rate, seizures and paranoia.
Possession or sale of these substances can carry third-degree felony charges.