Pompano Beach became the most recent South Florida municipality to curb the sale of “herbal incense,” a designer drug that many are calling synthetic marijuana. The City Commission approved a new ban ordinance on June 26 on second reading.
“It was passed with the definition excluding tobacco and food seasonings,” said City Attorney Gordon Linn.
However, the devil may be in the details and some residents wonder if municipal action is anything more than cosmetic.
Pompano Beach’s Commission action amended its “Health & Safety” regulations to ban specified substances that have become standard ingredients in creating street narcotics, or which are ingested for their narcotic effects including synthetic marijuana and “bath salts.”
In South Florida and around the nation, use of apparent novelty products as intoxicants has become recognized as a severe problem, and as a public health threat.
Linn explained that while the state maintains a schedule of substances that can’t be sold, it takes time for that list to be updated and enacted – far more time than it takes enterprising peddlers to manufacture reformulated substances and bring them to market as unscheduled substances.
“People are busy making substances faster than the state can list them,” Linn said. He said that the city of Sweetwater was first to ban the sale of herbal incenses and that it seemed like a way to impede their proliferation. He said that Sunrise has also recently amended its regulations to address the same issue.
After initially supporting an ordinance that might have inadvertently restricted the sale of permissible products, the Commission considered and adopted new language on June 26.
“The state has a couple of bills looking into adding [these chemicals] to the prohibited list of substances as well,” Linn said.
However, challenges remain to slowing the popularity of these dangerous chemicals.
“There are endless possibilities [of chemical combinations] and that makes it very hard to deal with,” Linn said. “Substances also have to be tested to see what they do.”
Pompano resident Terri Green says she respects what the city intends, but doesn’t see how it will help much.
“City’s have their own laws, so if someone has to cross a street to go to a town that doesn’t have the same restrictions, it doesn’t seem like the problem is addressed much,” Green said. “Not to mention, if [chemicals] are anything like technology, [manufacturers] are always going to be way ahead of government.”
Green’s boyfriend, Miles McGuinn, said he thinks the ordinance was intended to demonstrate that the city is aware of the problem, and perhaps to ease the fears of some residents but that the plan doesn’t seem easy to enforce.
“Does the city have enough chemists to test every novelty item that is sold at every shop in the city?” McGuinn said.