Florida’s Attorney General Pam Bondi assured constituents she will continue battling a fight on synthetic drugs at an event in Marion County Friday.
Synthetic drugs, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, are often sold in legal retail outlets as herbal incense or plant food and are seen in the form of bath salts and synthetic marijuana.
Bondi said she didn’t know about synthetic drugs when she first took office two years ago. The drug problem began in the Florida Panhandle and in a matter of months she saw it spread throughout the state, she said.
She said she wants to always be one step ahead in the fight. Since assuming office Bondi said she has banned more than 100 synthetic drug substances and will continue to ban these substances to combat the chemists that create these drugs.
Although she has banned many drugs, chemists, predominantly located in Asia, can change the compound of a drug to find a loophole and make a new drug that’s not considered illegal, she said.
The effect of the bans may lead to a significant rise in the prison population and possibly cost taxpayers, Marion County Sheriff Chris Blair said.
The synthetic drugs are marketed to children and young adults, Bondi said, and have kid friendly names like “Scooby-Doo” and “cotton candy.”
Bondi said the majority of synthetic-drug-related emergency room visits involve 12- to 29-year-olds, with the majority of those being 12 to 17 years old.
She urges parents to become involved and talk to their children and even search their backpacks if needed.
The battle with the chemists requires more than just banning substances. It requires giving more power to law enforcement to prevent these drugs from hitting the streets, said Lt. Butch Green of the Ocala Police Department.
Sgt. Angie Scroble, spokesman for the Ocala Police Department, said that one of the biggest dangers of these synthetic drugs is that the side effects are unknown because the compounds are constantly being changed.
“It’s very dangerous,” Scroble said. “The unknown usually is.”
She said she wants the public to be more aware because even parents can be fooled by the attractive packaging. The drugs are sometimes found next to energy drinks, she said.
“They think it’s okay just because it’s synthetic and it’s not real,” Scroble said. “It can do real harm.”
Jamie Bissell, a mechanic from Marion County, has seen many of his friends and their children be involved with the drugs.
He said the problem could be solved by having more inspections at ports where the drugs may be coming in.
Bondi was joined by Marion County and state officials, including Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn and Assistant State Attorney Bill Gladson. The meeting was held at the Marion County Sheriff’s Office and about 150 people attended.