Hillsborough looking for way to ban sales of synthetic drugs

Scooby Snax, Mad Hatter, Herbal Incense, Spice, K2 Spice, Jonny Clearwater,  Caution and other names that appeal to young people.

State legislators have tried to ban the sales of these synthetic drugs commonly sold at convenience stores by outlawing the…

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Hillsborough looking for way to ban sales of synthetic drugs

Scooby Snax, Mad Hatter, Herbal Incense, Spice, K2 Spice, Jonny Clearwater,  Caution and other names that appeal to young people.

State legislators have tried to ban the sales of these synthetic drugs commonly sold at convenience stores by outlawing the chemicals they contain. But then the makers simply alter the mix of chemicals that cause euphoria, mild hallucinations, and sometimes medical complications and occasionally death.

So Hillsborough County commissioners joined a growing number of local governments, including Pinellas County, in voting to explore a local law to ban their sales.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we have a grave, grave issue in our community that’s kind of been kept quiet,” said Commissioner Les Miller, who introduced the proposal. “It’s called synthetic drugs. It is a dangerous, dangerous drug.”

Lawyers for the county and Sheriff’s Office were tasked with finding ways to ban them, or borrowing ideas from other governments that have crafted ordinances. They were also asked to work with lawyers for the county’s three cities to put up a uniform front.

With any ordinance that is created, a violation would be a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.

The challenge: It’s a relatively new frontier. There are no field tests for law enforcement to use if they catch someone with a suspected banned substance. And with drugmakers altering their cocktails to stay ahead of the laws, the county likely will take a broader approach.

One model, they say, may be the city of Sunrise in South Florida. Its mayor recently signed a law banning the sale or display of “aromatic plant material, containing or to which any synthetic chemical compound has been added for the purpose of mimicking the effects of a controlled substance.”

In taking that approach, lawyers will have to ensure the language of the local ordinance cannot be challenged as overly broad or vague.

“That’s the trick,” said Chris Brown, general counsel for the Sheriff’s Office.

Complicating matters further, commissioners asked that they fold in an effort to thwart people using other substances, such as bath salts, for the purposes of getting high.

Brown said products being sold have been likened to marijuana, but he said that is a bit of a misnomer. The packages usually contain some type of plant material, such as crushed tea, that is soaked in mind-altering chemicals and sometimes sprayed with something else to give it a pleasing scent.

The effects are not always the same, or even similar to marijuana. And little is known about the long-term effects of use.

Maj. Tom Feeney, commander of the special investigations division of the Sheriff’s Office, said he has seen people react in ways he likens to those of users of PCP when he started police work 32 years ago in Washington, D.C.

“If you look at the behavior (exhibited) by those that abuse this drug, they’re almost identical in my experience,” Feeney said.

The Sheriff’s Office in March sent letters to businesses around the county appealing to them to stop selling the drugs. There was some success, but it wasn’t universal by any means. So now commissioners are asking them to take a different step.

Their vote was unanimous.

In other action:

Commissioners voted unanimously to extend a deadline for county attorney applications and asked for new advertisements for the post. A majority of commissioners expressed dissatisfaction with the amount of detail they got from a California search firm about how it came to recommend four finalists. The firm was paid $25,000 to screen applicants.

Representatives of Ralph Anderson & Associates were not present Wednesday. The four people it recommended will remain finalists, but commissioners want to see if more names could be added to the list.

Information on synthetic drugs

Parents and teens: We have been receiving many requests for information on “K2” and “Spice,” which are street names for synthetic marijuana. My research took me to The Partnership at Drugfree.Org where I learned that K2/Spice is a mixture of herbs and plant materials that have been sprayed with artificial chemicals to mimic the effects of marijuana. K2/Spice is sold online and in convenience stores under trade names such as Blaze, Bliss, Black Mamba, Bombay Blue, or Genie, or by the names of the chemicals used in production, such as JWH-018. It is also marketed as incense.

The physical signs of K2/Spice are extremely troubling and include increased agitation, loss of control, seizures, spastic body movements, vomiting, elevated blood pressure and increased heart rate.

K2/Spice is usually smoked and the user can feel the effects in 3 to 5 minutes, and the effects can last from 1 to 8 hours. Other signs of use include paranoia, delusions and hallucinations. Another factor is dysphoria, which is the opposite of euphoria. A K2/Spice user posted a blog comment that read in part, “I felt like I was in hell and I couldn’t get out.”

As troubling as the short-term effects of this drug are, what is even more concerning is the fact that no one knows what their long-term effects will be. They simply haven’t been around long enough for medical professionals to know how users (or their unborn children) will be affected in 10 years, 20 years or even further in the future.

While parents might not be aware of K2/Spice, their teens definitely know what it is. According to the “Monitoring the Future” study, a survey conducted by the University of Michigan found more than 1 in 10 American high school seniors used synthetic marijuana in the prior year. It also appears the use of K2 is rising. It doubled during 2010 and 2011 and is on track to rise again this year.

It is extremely important for parents and teens to understand that synthetic drugs are extremely dangerous and are not safe as a second choice or as an alternative to more well-known drugs. The Partnership at Drugfree.Org offers a toll-free helpline for parents and teens who would like to ask questions about synthetic drugs at 1-855-DRUGFREE. Trained social workers will supply answers to the many possible inquiries.

Parents: A good message to teens is to avoid putting anything in their bodies that would change their feelings or emotions — whether it is something they would smoke, drink, take in pill form or shoot with a needle. The human brain is an incredible machine, and you need to be even more careful with a teenage brain because it is a work in progress.

Teens: It is impossible to know what these drugs contain, who made them or what you are going to get. Getting high — no matter how — carries risks of making unsafe or unhealthy decisions. Be wise; don’t become a victim of a manufacturer’s greed!


Write to Dr. Wallace at

NY officials target shops selling synthetic drugs

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Undercover investigators found head shop employees selling mislabeled bath salts and other synthetic drugs that mimic cocaine and marijuana, and telling customers how to use them, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Tuesday. His office filed lawsuits in 12 counties to stop the illegal sales.

The lawsuits accuse 16 stores of violating state labeling laws that require that products sold to consumers show, among other things, what’s in them and where they are made and packed.

Investigators posing as customers found brightly packaged substances described as potpourri, incense, butterfly attractant — or not labeled at all — for sale and most lacked comprehensive ingredient lists, said Schneiderman, who announced the lawsuits at a news conference in Rochester, where two of the stores are located.

The other shops are in Buffalo, Commack, Syracuse, Watertown, Binghamton, Utica, Plattsburgh, Albany, Poughkeepsie, Nanuet, Oceanside and Baldwin.

“We discovered that head shop employees were giving tutorials on how to use dangerous intoxicants,” Schneiderman said.

At Pavilion International in Buffalo, an investigator in May bought the hallucinogenic plant salvia, along with a “bubbler” pipe recommended by the store clerk as the best way to experience it, authorities said.

A person who answered the phone at the shop Tuesday said the owner was not there. He declined to comment before hanging up on a reporter.

“With today’s actions, we are fighting back to control this crisis and ensure that the days of profiting off the illegal sale of these dangerous drugs are over,” Schneiderman said.

The synthetic drugs have been linked to bizarre and violent behavior around the country, including the death of a 21-year-old film student who leapt off a New York City balcony after smoking salvia.

In Utica last month, police officers were called to a city bar and found a woman under the influence of bath salts screaming that she wanted to “kill someone and eat them.” Later that day, police in the same city responded to a call involving a 20-year-old man, also under the influence, who’d reportedly threatened to kill his mother and ripped a door off its hinges. Police found him punching a car in a driveway.

“There is a completely new level of violence and unpredictability associated with these patients,” Dr. Maja Lundborg-Gray of Samaritan Medical Center in Watertown said in an affidavit filed with Tuesday’s lawsuits. “In some instances, hospital staff have been diverted from helping other patients in order to assist in securing and stabilizing designer drug users.”

But Schneiderman said it’s been difficult for state and federal authorities to ban the substances because manufacturers tweak the compounds once certain chemicals are outlawed, in effect staying ahead of the law.

The lawsuits seek to immediately stop the sale of mislabeled drugs, as well as the sale of nitrous oxide, a gas typically inhaled to produce a high.

Cherokee County agents battle synthetic drugs


Drug task force agents in Cherokee County say they have a new tool in fighting the most dangerous drugs to come into the area in 15 years, but agents say much more needs to be done to stop the spread of bath salts and synthetic marijuana.

Both balt salts and synthetic marijuana are made of complicated chemical combinations, some of which are still legal in Georgia. That puts police in the difficult situation of not knowing if they can arrest someone with the drugs.

“I’ve been doing this 36 years…I’ve never seen anything quite like this,” said Phil Price of the Cherokee County Multi-Agency Narcotics unit.

The Cherokee County group now has a field test that uses a laser and a computer to identify drugs in seconds, as opposed to the weeks it could take the GBI crime lab.

“This puts us at a distinct advantage. We know, within a reasonable certainty, what the drug is and so we can go ahead and make the charge,” said Price.

Charges are one thing. Convictions are another. Price said that jurors have been reluctant to find people guilty because the drugs are sold in legitimate businesses.

Price believes there needs to be more government regulation over the products. Right now, manufacturers don’t have to list ingredients and people of any age can buy them.

“There’s really nobody watching…There’s more regulations if you run a bowling alley than if you make synthetic drugs,” said Price.

Police in Georgia have arrested people who have allegedly acting bizarrely after using bath salts. There have been at least two deaths attributed to synthetic marijuana in the state.

While the state has banned the substances, manufacturers have skirted the law by changing the chemical makeup and putting them back on shelves.

Getting a Handle on Synthetic Drugs Is a Lot Tougher Than Getting Them


synthetic marijuanaThe synthetic marijuana product Spice

Synthetic, or designer, drugs are chemical compounds that imitate the effects of marijuana, stimulants, and other recreational drugs. Unlike illegal substances, synthetics are easily accessible to users who want to get high without risking legal repercussions. Although the Federal Analog Act of 1986 prevents the sale of chemicals with structures that are “substantially similar” to those of illegal drugs, it only applies to drugs intended for human consumption. Manufacturers easily leap this hurdleby labeling their synthetic drugs as non-ingestible products such as incense, potpourri, or bath salts. Taking a different tack, the government recently passed the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act of 2012, which makes some of the popular designer drugs illegal. But did this really make synthetics lessavailable?

The act’s long list of now-illegal chemical formulas may not be long enough: chemists can tweak the molecular structure of a compound to make it different enough to circumvent the ban, but similar enough to cause the same effects. Because manufacturers keep creating new formulas each time the old ones become illegal, synthetic drugs are incredibly difficult to regulate. And this is dangerous because on top of getting users high, synthetics can have unintended effects.

One type of synthetic stimulant called bath salts entered the common vernacular after being linked to hallucinations, suicides, and violent attacks. And as 80beats reported in 2011, synthetic marijuana may have given several teens heart attacks. And months after that post was published, its comment thread continues to grow as people share their experiences with synthetic products. Anecdotes describe pounding hearts, intense panic attacks, loss of bodily control, and feeling certain that death was nigh. “I thought I was going to die, my heart was racing and it was pounding so hard it was affecting my breathing like when you pound on your chest when you talk. I have had panic attacks before and this was the mother of all panic attacks,” wrote one commenter. According to another, “I felt weak, I felt an impending sense of doom, I thought I could be having a heart attack.” Others vomited heavily or lost control of their bladders. Even hours after taking the drugs, sensations of illness and anxiety remained.Easily evaded regulations mean synthetic drugs that cause these reactions will remain on store shelves, despite the government’s best efforts to pull them out of reach.

Roanoke seminars raise awareness of synthetic drugs

When the synthetic drug industry seeped into the Roanoke Valley, it took root silently. Then it flourished, and all virtually unnoticed, Roanoke Police Chief Chris Perkins said Thursday.

“When this hit and we started talking about it, it was like a tidal wave,” Perkins said. “We’re only now realizing there may have been a significant impact on crime in this area because of this issue.”

Kristin Bringewatt, with the Roanoke County Community Youth Program at St. John’s Episcopal Church and a volunteer with Roanoke County Fire & Rescue, studies the framed exhibit of synthetic drugs being marketed around the country.

Photos by Stephanie Klein-Davis | The Roanoke Times

Kristin Bringewatt, with the Roanoke County Community Youth Program at St. John’s Episcopal Church and a volunteer with Roanoke County Fire & Rescue, studies the framed exhibit of synthetic drugs being marketed around the country.

Gwen Mason, community outreach coordinator for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, talks about the dangers of synthetic drugs in the community Thursday night at the Roanoke Police Academy.


Gwen Mason, community outreach coordinator for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, talks about the dangers of synthetic drugs in the community Thursday night at the Roanoke Police Academy.

Now police and prevention officers play catch-up.

Government agencies across the Roanoke Valley joined forces Thursday to host two simultaneous seminars aimed at raising awareness of synthetic drugs.

The meetings took place less than a month after a new state law went into effect, making illegal a slew of chemical compounds often found in such drugs. And while authorities have taken advantage of the new law by collecting more than $105,000 worth of the drugs from local vendors who voluntarily relinquished their goods, policing on the local level is still a fight against the tide.

The landscape of the synthetic drug market constantly changes, so much that Virginia lawmakers might illegalize one drug only to find another — with a new chemical makeup — has cropped up in its place. And until the state legislature bans the replacement, authorities carry a heavier burden of proving a distributor is selling illegally, and with criminal intent.

For authorities looking to shut down sources of such drugs, the battle can get lost in legalities, legal experts and authorities said.

Federal authorities, such as the Drug Enforcement Administration, can charge people who distribute substances that mimic the effects of already illegal drugs, but the DEA limits the number of cases it takes on to focus on significant traffickers in an area, authorities have said.

For local police organizing to combat synthetic drug distribution, the effort continues to be a fight to keep their heads above water. The new Virginia law aids agencies temporarily, but with chemists constantly changing the formulas of drugs, local police will again be left waiting for the legislature to add more chemical compounds to the banned list.

Tim Carden, the resident agent with the DEA, said that in the past several weeks authorities approached eight local stores selling the synthetic drugs and asked them to stop and surrender the products.

“They were very cooperative,” Carden said.

Concerned residents, alongside educators and government employees, attended both seminars, held simultaneously at the Roanoke Police Academy and the South County Library.

Many came familiar with the street names of the synthetic drugs. Amped, Vanilla Sky and Ivory Wave are all available through the Internet and at some local tobacconists and convenience stores.

James Simmons, 18, of Roanoke County, attended the South County Library meeting.

“I thought it was interesting because I saw it on the news,” Simmons said. “I came to learn. I’ve seen Kryptonite in the store, in Richmond.”

On the other side of Roanoke, at the police academy, Harrel Thompson attended the meeting with his family.

“It’s a serious problem,” Thompson said. “I don’t understand why people do that to start with.”

Roanoke County police Lt. M.L. Williams told the library crowd that police see use of the drugs across a wide band of ages and socioeconomic spheres.

A detective with the Roanoke police drug unit estimated the city responded to 95 incidents involving synthetic drugs since January, though there is no way to conclusively prove that finding, he said. In many cases, such drugs won’t appear on field or urine tests.

Gwen Mason, an outreach coordinator with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, said the long-term effects of such drugs remain a mystery, another reason to stay away from them.

“It’s Russian roulette on what it’s going to do to you,” Mason said.

And at prices that run between $20 and $40 apiece, the risk of danger increases, said prevention specialists such as Rene Cox.

Cox, who works with New River Valley Community Services, said she thinks teenagers are attracted to the drugs because they are accessible.

“It’s cheap, no age limit,” Cox said. “You can get it in convenience stores. Sadly it’s just part of our community.”


Roanoke Public Libraries will host a series of seminars in coming weeks to educate the public about synthetic drugs in the community and how police are tackling distribution. Meetings are scheduled to take place at several branches.

>> 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 24 – Downtown Main Library on Jefferson Street in Roanoke

>> 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 25 – Williamson Road Library

>> 6 p.m. Monday, July 30 —  Jackson Park Library

>> 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 14 – Raleigh Court Library

>> 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 15 – Melrose Library

>> 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 16 — Gainsboro Library

Synthetic Drug Users Claim They “Used” Unknowingly

WASHINGTON, MO. (KPLR) – Poison Control reports callers who claim drugs were hidden inside cigarettes.  People are calling Poison Control saying they’ve used synthetic drugs without even knowing it.  While that sounds impossible, it’s happening because people are secretly planting the dangerous drugs in cigarettes.

A Washington, MO. Mom explained how her son recently came home screaming, “They drugged me!”  Jorjann Walther says her son came home with his truck damaged.  She said he was panicked because he thought he’d been in a dream.  She explained that, “He was very paranoid.  He was backing away from the ambulance attendant and it was just not him.”

With the help of a Washington, Missouri Police investigation, they discovered Walther’s friends removed tobacco from a cigarette and replaced it with a store product called Mad Hatter.  The Fox Files recently took the synthetic drug to be tested.  The St. Louis County Toxicology lab found the banned compound called AM2201.

Police Chief Ken Hahn said, “I don`t think any of these young people know how potent this stuff is.”

Chief Hahn explained how this started as an apparent joke by Walther’s friends.

He told us, “At first one was blaming the other and we got to the bottom of it.  Bottom line we did learn the cigarette was altered and it was stuffed with this Mad Hatter.”

Walther was relieved to learn her son didn’t run over anyone while driving and hallucinating. She said she learned from police that several people called 911 to report a black truck driving up the back side of the Lions Lake dam, possibly up on the walking path, right on the edge of the deepest end of the lake.

She added, “(My son) remembers the truck shaking and he remembers seeing the lake and saying, Oh it would be really neat to drive on a lake, because he thought he was in a dream.”

Though Mad Hatter is called synthetic pot, it’s really an entirely different animal.

Based on her son’s demeanor, Walther said she thought, “It`s nothing like marijuana.  It didn`t make him sleepy.  It agitated him and made him hallucinate.”

Police continue investigating possible charges and looking for the store that may have sold the illegal synthetic drug.

Just two days before the concerned mother called FOX2, a poison control representative told us about similar cases of parents reporting their kids smoked what they thought was a normal cigarette, but turned out to be something else.

New Dangerous Synthetic Drugs In Reno

RENO, NV – The Washoe County Sheriff’s Office is warning about new synthetic street drugs that have hit the street. You’ve probably heard of “bath salts” and “spice” drugs made of compounds just recently outlawed in Nevada. Change those compounds, even slightly and they now become legal.

Criminalist Diane Machen rolls out samples of drugs tested here at Washoe County Sheriff’s Forensic Science Division.

Click here to find out more!

While the outside packaging looks innocent enough, inside are chemical substances smoked, snorted, ingested or mixed with drinks that produce hallucinogenic results.

The chemical compounds are illegal in Nevada, but manufacturers of these drugs simply alter the chemical slightly and the drugs become legal again.

“It is very hard to keep ahead of it, they will have the same or similar effects on the body as the ones that are currently regulated. If you control one compound all they have to do is make a slight modification to that compound, and now it is no longer the compound that is specifically listed as controlled,” says Machen.

So legal in fact the drugs can be mailed to your home.

Machen shows us examples of what they look like packaged with names like Carpet Deodorizer, and Blue Wave.

The drugs haven’t just been found in Reno she says it’s a worldwide problem.

Particularly since you don’t know who is making the stuff and what it is made of.

“Even though you may think they are all right because they are not specifically controlled by law or regulation, that should not be the inference that is made.” says Machen.

Machen says nothing could be further from the truth in her words, using these substances is essentially the equivalent to Russian Roulette.

1,400 synthetic drugs seized from Wilmington store

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – More than 1,400 packages of the recently banned substance “Spice” were removed from Northern Lights Smoke Shop in Wilmington, according to police.

The bust is the result of a month-long joint investigation between the Wilmington Police Departments Narcotics Unit and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

The street value of the synthetic drug is estimated at $30,000, according to police. Officers also found about $2,000 when they searched the Market Street business Thursday afternoon.

No arrests have been made, but charges are still pending, according to a news release. This is believed to be the largest “Spice” bust in the greater Wilmington area.

The Drug Enforcement Administration banned “Spice” in 2011.

Source: Wilmington Police Department