Cities joining legal crusade to ban fake pot, ‘bath salts’

  • Cities are joining a legal crusade to ban bath salts and synthetic marijuana.
Cities are joining a legal crusade to ban bath salts and synthetic marijuana. (Sarah Dussault, Sun Sentinel )
June 28, 2012|By Susannah Bryan, Sun Sentinel

SUNRISE — Synthetic marijuana has been in the cross hairs of cities waging their own war against synthetic drugs.

Now it’s bath salts, the designer drug meant to mimic cocaine.

The ban movement was already under way when the world learned of the gruesome “Causeway Cannibal” attack.

Police initially suspected Rudy Eugene may have been on psychoactive bath salts when he attacked a homeless man in Miami on May 26, chewing away part of his face before being shot and killed by an officer. Toxicology reports released this week found only marijuana in his system.

But the May 26 incident gave momentum to the ban effort, with city officials pointing to growing evidence that the fake drugs may be more dangerous than the real.

Earlier this week, Lauderhill became the first city in Broward to ban bath salts. Commissioners approved a ban on synthetic marijuana the same night.

“It is a national problem,” Lauderhill Mayor Richard Kaplan said. “These synthetic drugs are just a way to get around the laws against illegal drugs. But they are making people sick. Some of them can be outright poison.”

Even if the so-called “Causeway Cannibal” wasn’t on designer drugs, that doesn’t mean they aren’t dangerous, Kaplan said.

On June 14, a Texas man high on synthetic pot attacked a family dog, tearing away at its flesh. Before killing the pet, the man got down on all fours and chased a neighbor while barking and growling.

Bath salts and synthetic marijuana are sold online and behind the counter at convenience stores and gas stations.

“It’s scary it’s available down the street in a local store,” Kaplan said. “Some kid could walk in and buy it like he’s buying a candy bar.”

Kaplan said he was glad to see cities step forward to ban herbal incense and bath salts, but the state needs to move quickly as well.

“We’ve got over 500 cities in Florida,” he said. “Are they all going to pass bans?”

Broward County, Miami-Dade County, Hollywood, Margate and North Lauderdale are planning to ban both designer drugs. The ban in Broward County would apply countywide, except in cities with conflicting rules on the books.

“If one city bans it, they’ll all come to the cities that don’t ban it,” Margate Mayor Pam Donovan said. “I don’t want them doing it on our city. We have to make it safe for our kids.”

In May, Sweetwater became the first city in the state to ban the sale of all incense that’s not on a stick in an effort to outlaw fake weed.

Sunrise followed suit on June 12, becoming the first city in Broward County — and the second in the state — to ban synthetic marijuana. Sunrise plans to outlaw bath salts in July after giving initial approval to a ban Tuesday.

“Those who manufacture and sell these dangerous cocktails of poisons are endangering not only those who take them, but also the public, police officers responding to calls and fire-rescue personnel called to help,” Sunrise Mayor Mike Ryan said.

Deerfield Beach banned synthetic marijuana on June 19. Cities considering a similar ban include Coral Springs, Davie, Fort Lauderdale, Lighthouse Point, Hallandale Beach, Pembroke Pines, Pompano Beach and Tamarac.

The DEA has banned the sale of the chemicals used to make both designer drugs. Florida is among several states that have issued a similar ban.

Manufacturers have managed to sidestep the federal and statewide ban by changing the chemical makeup of the products.

Exposure to synthetic marijuana resulted in 2,906 calls to poison control centers across the nation in 2010; 6,959 calls in 2011; and 1,901 calls in the first three months of 2012. Exposure to bath salts resulted in 304 calls in 2010; 6,138 calls in 2011; and 1,007 calls in the first four months of 2012.

Ban herbal incense, fake pot, bath salts in Palm Beach County?

Palm Beach County Commissioner Karen Marcus is pushing for a ban on the sale of herbal incense, synthetic marijuana and bath salts.

Marcus said she plans to introduce the concept to the rest of the commissioners Tuesday and ask them to consider passing a law that would prevent the sale or display of the substances, which authorities say can currently give a legal high to those who smoke or ingest them.

If the commission agrees, the county attorney’s office would begin researching an ordinance, Marcus said.

The commission is expected to begin discussing Marcus’ request at a meeting Tuesday.

Marcus said the measure would be modeled after an ordinance approved last month by leaders of a city in Broward County that blocked businesses from selling or displaying synthetic marijuana, known on the street as “Spice.”

The substances are readily available at many gas stations and convenience stores. Law enforcement officials say side effects from ingesting them can include hallucinations that last for days.

State lawmakers have passed laws the past two years banning bath salts, but local officials say that manufactures have continued to find a way to keep the items on the shelves by changing the ingredients or marking the packages with a warning that they are not intended for human consumption.

Marcus said she decided to bring the issue forward after receiving an email from a local parent about the problem and talking to a friend in Martin County whose son was addicted to herbal incense.

“This stuff puts holes in your brain,” Marcus said. “This is ridiculous that it is just something that (kids) can go into the gas station and get.”

Last month, Sunrise became the first city in Broward County, and the second in the state, to ban the sale and display of herbal incense. Businesses that violate the ban face code enforcement fines.

Sunrise officials are also working on an ordinance that would block businesses from manufacturing the substance.

Despite state laws regulating the substances, Sunrise Mayor Michael Ryan said city police officers were unable to keep the items off of store shelves. Ryan pointed to a loophole that he said lets businesses sell the substances as long as they are not intended for human consumption.

“We have never faced a public safety threat quiet like this,” Ryan said. “Here there is an entire industry that is pouring millions of dollars into marketing this as benign and safe. In reality they are unregulated and no one knows what they are putting in it.”

In a memo to commissioners, Marcus said she had discussed the ban with Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw and he said the legislation would help his office combat this “growing problem.”

But Dr. David Bohorquez, the Emergency Department Medical Director at St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach, said that he has not seen many cases involving the items.

“Those aren’t the things that people overdose on,” Bohorquez said.

Broward may outlaw bath salts, fake pot, aggressive panhandling

Broward County may join the legal crusades against trendy synthetic drugs and aggressive panhandlers.

At their last meeting before a two-month summer recess, Broward commissioners Tuesday asked their attorney to draft laws on both hot issues, to be voted on later this year.

The laws, if passed, would apply countywide except in cities that have conflicting rules on the books, the county attorney’s office said.

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  • Sunrise expected to ban designer drug sold as 'bath salts'

Since the Miami “zombie” attack in which Rudy Eugene attacked a homeless man, eating part of his face, the use of bath salts as a mind-altering drug has drawn wide public attention. Police are looking into whether Eugene, whom they shot and killed, was under the influence of bath salts before the attack.

Disturbing accounts of people smoking herbal incense as a synthetic version of marijuana also are prompting action to outlaw sales of that substance.

Broward commissioners appeared less enthusiastic, though, over a proposal to outlaw aggressive panhandling, suggested by Commissioner Chip LaMarca. The city of Fort Lauderdale passed an anti-begging law recently, and LaMarca said he’d like to see Broward follow suit.

Visitors shouldn’t be verbally accosted by panhandlers, he said.

But his colleagues voiced numerous concerns, including Mayor John Rodstrom’s repeated worries that the county’s jails would fill to overflowing if the law is passed.

Sheriff Al Lamberti said last week that the jails are at 92 percent capacity, and he’d have to reopen the county stockade if the population passes its maximum.

Commissioner Sue Gunzburger said she’s never had a problem once she says no to people selling items from the street corners and medians.

“I realize it’s a problem for some,” she said, “but we also have to protect their First Amendment rights.”

Commissioners also on Tuesday put some bite into several new laws passed recently, enacting fines of $250 per violation for the first offense, and $500 for subsequent violations.

Here are the laws the fines apply to: a new tow truck ordinance, which attempts to infuse more customer friendliness into operations; a law banning the sale of smoking pipes and devices to minors; a law making it illegal for junk dealers and scrap metal processors to pay cash or to buy restricted items; and a law requiring gas stations to post a phone number or provide an intercom system so disabled drivers can call inside for help pumping gas.

Cities getting tougher on synthetic, dangerous pot substitutes

Sold as herbal incense in candy-like packaging, synthetic marijuana is dangerous enough to outlaw. So say city and county officials around South Florida.

Sweetwater has banned the stuff and Sunrise officials are expected to give final approval to a ban in June. Others may be close behind, including Broward and Miami-Dade counties, Coral Springs, Deerfield Beach, Hallandale Beach, Pembroke Pines, Pompano Beach and Miami Gardens.


synthetic drug ban


Bath Salts

Cities are joining a legal crusade to ban bath salts and synthetic marijuana.

City commissioners are poised to ban synthetic marijuana and “bath salts” at their Tuesday meeting, making Hollywood the latest Broward city to jump on the synthetic-drug-ban bandwagon.

Bath salts, touted as fake cocaine, and synthetic marijuana, sold as herbal incense, have gained popularity for recreational drug use.

As a result, poison control centers and emergency rooms nationwide have seen an uptick in calls and treatment because of the drugs’ detrimental effects.

Topping the list of adverse reactions are aggression, extreme paranoia, hostility and hallucinations.

Several Broward cities have rushed to ban the troublesome substances.

“There’s evidence that the accessibility to these products, over the counter at convenience stores and gas stations and so forth, is something that needs to be stopped,” said Commissioner Dick Blattner, who instigated the city ban. “And since other cities are passing similar legislation, we end up being an island in the sea, so to speak, if we don’t follow suit.”

Hollywood is poised to enact its ban as an emergency ordinance, requiring a one-time 2/3 vote of the commission. Violators will face a $500 fine and/or 60 days in jail.

On June 12, Sunrise was the first Broward city — the second in the state after Sweetwater — to ban synthetic marijuana. Deerfield Beach and Lauderhill quickly followed suit.

Also with synthetic pot bans in the works are Coral Springs, Davie,Fort Lauderdale, Lighthouse Point, Hallandale Beach, Pembroke Pines, Pompano Beach and Tamarac.

Lauderhill’s ban last week on bath salts made it the first Broward city to do so. Sunrise is on its way to doing the same.

Broward and Miami-Dade counties, Margate and North Lauderdale are working toward bans of both substances.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has banned the sale of the chemicals used to make both drugs. Florida is among several states that have done likewise.

In 2011, the state Legislature, banned the chemical compounds that were being marketed as “bath salts.” And this past spring, lawmakers banned 92 additional chemical compounds that state law enforcement had identified as frequently appearing in drugs being marketed as synthetic marijuana.

But manufacturers have managed to sidestep the federal and statewide bans. Almost as soon as a new law gets on the books, law enforcement officials say, chemists alter the chemical composition of the banned substance enough that it can still be legally sold.

Poison control centers nationwide dealt with 2,906 calls in 2010 related to synthetic marijuana exposure; 6,959 calls in 2011; and 1,901 calls in the first three months of 2012.

Exposure to bath salts resulted in 304 calls in 2010; 6,138 calls in 2011; and 1,007 calls in the first four months of 2012.

Sunrise becomes first in Broward to ban synthetic pot

Sunrise has become the first city in Broward — and the second in the state — to ban the herbal incense meant to give those who smoke it a high.

Synthetic marijuana, known on the street as “Spice,” “Mr. Nice Guy” and other colorful names, is sending some people who smoke it to the hospital — or the morgue, experts say. Side effects include rapid heart rate, anxiety, nausea, seizures, hallucinations, renal failure and, in extreme cases, death.

Sunrise commissioners gave unanimous approval to the ban Tuesday night.

Others may be close behind, including Broward and Miami-Dade counties, Coral Springs, Davie, Deerfield Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Hallandale Beach, Lauderhill, Margate, Pembroke Pines, Pompano Beach and Tamarac.

Deerfield Beach is expected to give final approval to a ban June 19. Pompano Beach officials gave initial approval to a ban on Tuesday; Davie and Tamarac officials plan to vote on a similar ban in July.

Synthetic marijuana also has caught the attention of city officials in Palm Beach County, but so far there is no plan to ban the product city by city, said Richard Radcliffe, executive director of the Palm Beach County League of Cities.

“We’re all monitoring it,” Radcliffe said. “It’s on the radar. Rather than doing legislation every three weeks, we’re looking to see what Tallahassee and the feds are doing. The burner is getting turned up on this. But it’s important to do something comprehensive that you don’t have to change.”

Sunrise Mayor Mike Ryan spoke of the need for federal and state legislation to tackle the issue.

“We can’t do this by municipality alone,” he said. “In years past we had children who sniffed glue or sniffed paint. But we’ve never faced something as dangerous as this, where an entire industry is marketing this as safe and benign. This is called synthetic pot by the people marketing it because no one would buy it if it was called synthetic meth or synthetic cocaine or synthetic poison.”

Gas stations and convenience stores started pulling packets from shelves two weeks ago when Sunrise commissioners gave initial approval to a ban on all incense that’s not on a stick, in an effort to outlaw fake weed.

In May, Sweetwater became the first city in Florida to pass a similar ban on synthetic marijuana.

“I know of one kid that has gone to the hospital,” Davie Councilman Marlon Luis said. “Some of the other cities are going to ban it. I don’t want them selling it in Davie when the other cities aren’t allowing it.”

Until the state steps in, the cities have no choice but to take action, Tamarac Mayor Beth Flansbaum-Talabisco said. “We have to do something because it’s the right thing to do.”

At least nine states, including Florida, have tried to outlaw the chemicals used to make synthetic marijuana. Florida law bans herbal incense, but only if it is for human consumption.

Manufacturers have skirted state and federal laws banning the chemicals by changing the compounds and labeling the packets as herbal incense “not for human consumption.”

Sweetwater says it became the first city in the nation to outlaw synthetic marijuana when it banned the sale of loose leaf or granular incense on May 21.

Anyone caught selling loose leaf or granular incense in Sweetwater will be fined $500 per day and/or face up to 60 days in jail.

In Sunrise, violators would be issued a code violation and have to appear before a special magistrate.

Sunrise also plans to make it illegal to manufacture fake pot and to sell bath salts — the synthetic drug police officials suspect that Rudy Eugene, the man dubbed the Causeway Cannibal, may have taken before attacking a homeless man in Miami.

In Sunrise, the same gas stations and convenience stores selling fake pot are selling so-called bath salts, Ryan said.

The Sunrise ban would not outlaw the sale of legitimate bath salts, but would target the chemical concoction of bath salts meant to get people high, Ryan said. Those bath salts are sold in small quantities for up to $35 a packet.

“They call them bath salts, but they are not used in baths,” Ryan said. “It’s another dangerous cocktail of chemicals. They’re going to keep changing it and we’re going to keep up with them. We’re not giving up no matter how often they change the names or the chemicals.”