Pinellas officials considering banning bath salts and some incenses


In their latest salvo in the on-going struggle against synthetic marijuana, Pinellas County officials are seeking to ban the sale of bath salts and certain herbal incense products.

The proposed ordinance is an attempt to close the loophole created when Florida banned more than 90 chemicals used in synthetic marijuana. County officials said that by the time those products were off the shelves, drugmakers had already adapted by concocting new, legal cocktails that are as dangerous as their predecessors.

“What we want to do is make sure that we took the opportunity to close those gaps to ensure those things don’t come growing back,” said Tim Burns, the county’s director of Justice and Consumer Services.

In addition to banning synthetic marijuana, bath salts and kratom — a lesser-known substance that comes from a tropical plant — the ordinance would establish a five-person committee responsible for reviewing new products and possibly banning those as well.

Today, the Pinellas County Board of Commissioners will vote on whether to hold a public hearing on the proposed regulations.

Leo Calzadilla, who owns three tobacco shops in Pinellas County and is planning to open a fourth, said he would protest the ordinance. When state law banned a variety of products, he changed what he sold, he said. But the race to pass new ordinances and outfox manufacturers seems pointless to him, as well as bad for business.

“Herbal incense is sold as herbal incense,” he said. “That’s what it’s intended for. … What people do with it is their prerogative.”

Many of the synthetic marijuana products are labeled “not for consumption,” said Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, adding that this was “intellectually dishonest.”

Manufacturers know that teenagers buy their products intending to smoke or ingest them, he said. The drugs can cause extreme euphoria, as well as hallucinations and seizures. And there have been several high-profile instances in which teenagers died or were injured while under the influence of those substances.

Gualtieri said he is distributing letters to store owners, asking them to voluntarily drop the synthetic drugs from their inventories.

Randy Heine, owner of Rockin Cards & Gifts, a tobacco shop in Pinellas Park, said he would not object to banning synthetic marijuana, though this should be done at a state level, he said. But kratom is another matter.

Heine sells kratom leaves for smoking, kratom powder for making tea, and kratomite, a liquid concoction he described as a “relaxer.”

“I’ve been selling it steadily for 30 years without a problem, zero, nada, nothing,” he said. “There’s minimal reports of problems, compared to coffee, aspirin, cigarettes, and nobody has died of this; it’s just hysteria.”

“I’ve got to confess I don’t even know what it is,” Gualtieri said. “It’s not on my radar.”

But Burns maintained that kratom is an emerging product, one that might not be well-known to law enforcement officials now, but is poised to replace the synthetic drugs the county is hoping to banish.

The county’s proposed ordinance cites Thailand’s decision to outlaw kratom, as well as the substance’s inclusion on the Drug Enforcement Administration’s list of drugs and chemicals of concern as reason for banning it in Pinellas.

County officials also have proposed new regulations that would require stores selling glass pipes and bongs to post large warning signs on the front of their buildings.

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Drugs Stay Legal After ‘Bath Salts’ Ban


  • bath salts.jpg
    AP Photo/The Patriot-News, Chris Knight

It’s the same old story.  People making up new ways to get high while lawmakers attempt to catch up to the ever-changing, ever-growing drug culture.

Over the past two years, the U.S. has seen a surge in the use of synthetic drugs made of legal chemicals that mimic the dangerous effects of cocaine, amphetamines and other illegal stimulants.

The drugs are often sold at small, independent stores in misleading packaging that suggests common household items like bath salts, incense and plant food. But the substances inside are powerful, mind-altering drugs that have been linked to bizarre and violent behavior across the country. Law enforcement officials refer to the drugs collectively as “bath salts,” though they have nothing in common with the fragrant toiletries used to moisturize skin.

President Barack Obama signed a bill into law earlier this month that bans the sale, production and possession of more than two dozen of the most common bath salt drugs. But health professionals say lawmakers cannot keep pace with bath salt producers, who constantly adjust their chemical formulations to come up with new synthetic drugs that aren’t covered by new laws. Experts who have studied the problem estimate there are more than 100 different bath salt chemicals in circulation.

“The moment you start to regulate one of them, they’ll come out with a variant that sometimes is even more potent,” said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

There are no back alleys or crack houses in America’s latest drug epidemic. The problem involves potent substances that amateur chemists make, package and sell in stores under brands like “Ivory Wave,” ”Vanilla Sky” and “Bliss” for as little as $15. Emergencies related to the drugs have surged: The American Association of Poison Control Centers received more than 6,100 calls about bath salt drugs in 2011 — up from just 304 the year before — and more than 1,700 calls in the first half of 2012.

The problem for lawmakers is that it’s difficult to crack down on the drugs. U.S. laws prohibit the sale or possession of all substances that mimic illegal drugs, but only if federal prosecutors can show that they are intended for human use. People who make bath salts and similar drugs work around this by printing “not for human consumption” on virtually every packet.

Barbara Carreno, a spokeswoman for the Drug Enforcement Agency, said the intended use for bath salts is clear.

“Everyone knows these are drugs to get high, including the sellers,” she said.

Many states have banned some of the most common bath salts, which are typically sold by small businesses like convenience stores, tobacco shops and adult book stores. For instance, West Virginia legislators banned the bath salt drug MDPV last year, making it a misdemeanor to sell, buy or possess the synthetic drug. Conviction means up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Stephanie Mitchell, assistant manager of The Den, a tobacco and paraphernalia shop in Morgantown, W.Va., said the store hasn’t sold bath salts in the six months that she’s worked there. But strung-out users still come in and ask for them.

“They’re pretty … cracked out, I guess would be a good word,” said Mitchell, 21, a student at West Virginia University. “They’re just kind of not all there. They’re kind of sketchy people.”

Mitchell says she wouldn’t sell bath salts even if she had them, “because it’s horrible, and I could get in trouble for it.”

Despite the bans, bath salts producers are constantly tweaking their recipes to come up with new drugs that aren’t covered by local laws. In fact, Mark Ryan, director of the Louisiana Poison Center, says there are so many different drugs out there that it’s almost impossible to know what people have ingested, or how long the effects will last.

“Cocaine is cocaine and meth is meth. We know what these things do,” he said. “But with these new drugs, every time the chemist alters the chemical structure, all bets are off.”

The Spread

The most common bath salt drugs, like MDPV and mephedrone, were first developed in pharmaceutical research laboratories, though they were never approved for medical use. During the last decade they became popular as party drugs at European raves and dance clubs. As law enforcement began cracking down on the problem there, the drugs spread across the Atlantic Ocean.

Poison control centers in the U.S. began tracking use of the drugs in 2010. The majority of the early reports of drug use were clustered in Southern states like Louisiana, Tennessee and Kentucky. But the problem soon spread across the country.

The financial lure for small-time drugmakers is enticing. The drugs can be cheaply imported from China or India, and then easily packaged under local brands. For example, bath salts sold in Louisiana carry regional names like Hurricane Charlie or Bayou.

The widespread availability of the drugs in stores is equally alluring for drug users: they can get a cheap high similar to that of illegal drugs by walking to a corner store.

The most dangerous synthetic drugs are stimulants that affect levels of both dopamine and serotonin, brain chemicals that affect mood and perception. Users, who typically smoke or snort the powder-based drugs, may experience a surge in energy, fever and delusions of invincibility.

Use of these drugs has spread across the country with reports stretching from Maine to California. There are no official federal estimates on deaths connected with the drugs, many of which do not show up on typical drug tests. But police reports have implicated the drugs in several cases.

Packets of “Lady Bubbles” bath salts, for instance, were found on Sgt. David Franklyn Stewart last April after the solider shot and killed his wife and himself during a car chase with law enforcement near Olympia, Wash.

The chase began when Stewart sped past a police patrol car at 6 a.m. The police trooper pursued for 10 miles and reported seeing the driver raise a hand to his head, then heard a shot and saw the driver slump over. The next day police found the couple’s 5-year-old son dead in their home; he had been suffocated with a plastic bag at least 24 hours earlier.

Another death involving bath salts played out in Covington, La. Police reported that Dickie Sanders, 21, shot himself in the head Nov. 11, 2010 while his parents were asleep.

His father, Dr. Richard Sanders, said his son had snorted “Cloud 9” bath salts and endured three days of intermittent delirium, at one point attempting to cut his own throat. As he continued to have visions, his physician father tried to calm him. But the elder Sanders said that as he slept, his son went into another room and shot himself.

What’s Ahead

Hospital emergency rooms, doctors and law enforcement agencies across the country have struggled to control bath salt drug users who often are feverish and paranoid that they are being attacked. Doctors say users often turn up naked because bath salts raise their body temperature so much that they strip off their clothing.

Cookeville Regional Medical Center in Tennessee has treated 160 people suspected of taking bath salts since 2010. Dr. Sullivan Smith, who works there, said people on the drugs become combative, and it can take four or five health professionals to subdue them. In some cases, he said, doctors have to use prescription sedatives that are typically reserved for surgery.

Smith recalls one man who had been running for more than 24 hours because he believed the devil was chasing him with an ax. By the time police brought him to the hospital, he was dehydrated and covered in blood from running through thorny underbrush.

“We’re seeing extreme agitation, hallucinations that are very vivid, paranoia and some really violent behavior, so it’s a real crisis for us,” Smith said. “We sedate the living daylights out of them. And we’re talking doses on the order of 10 or 20 times what you would give for a painful procedure.”

To control the spread of the problem, the Drug Enforcement Agency issued a temporary ban in October on three of the most common drugs — mephedrone, methylone and MDPV. That ban became permanent under the bill signed by Obama on July 10.

Under the law, anyone convicted of selling, making or possessing 28 synthetic drugs, including bath salts, will face penalties similar to those for dealing traditional drugs like cocaine and heroin.

Those on the front lines say the legislation is a good start. But they don’t expect new laws to dramatically curb use of bath salts in the near term.

“The problem is these drugs are changing and I’m sure they’re going to find some that are a little bit different chemically so they don’t fall under the law,” said Dr. Smith, the Tennessee doctor. “Is it adequate to name five or 10 or even 20? The answer is no, they’re changing too fast.”

Read more: http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/health/2012/07/26/drugs-stay-legal-after-bath-salts-ban/#ixzz22DSc4GkX

Middletown man high on bath salts threatens to burn down local house


MIDDLETOWN — A city man was charged with second-degree unlawful restraint after allegedly snorting bath salts and saying he would burn down a house, police report.

Daniel Ventre, 28, 64 Pearl St., was also charged with third-degree assault. He was issued a summons for the charges and police reported completing an emergency committal form to have Ventre admitted to the hospital. He is due in court July 30.

Officers were sent to the victim’s home on July 29 around 6:10 p.m. for a report of a disturbance. The victim told police she fled to her mother’s home because of an argument with an ex-boyfriend, police said. She said Ventre had come over and she let him stay the night, but on Saturday morning they had a fight.

Ventre allededly threw her cell phone against a wall, breaking it, the victim told police. She also told police Ventre had been “smoking and snorting ‘bath salts’” and she was scared of him because he was “out of control.”

 

Ventre allegedly started pulling the victim’s hair and choking her, accusing her of stealing his bath salts, police said. The victim tried to leave, but Ventre said he would call the state Department of Children and Families and have her kids taken away if she did. He also threatened to burn the house down, police said.

Police reported seeing bruises on the victim’s arms and side and scratches on her neck. She was able to get to her mother’s house a short time later to call the police.

Ventre told police he and the victim had both been “smoking and snorting the ‘bath salts’ all weekend” before they got into a fight. Ventre said he was just defending himself, according to police.

Ventre had a difficult time focusing on the conversation, would randomly start talking about different subjects and his eyes were glassy and bloodshot, police said. He was confused and changed his story several times, according to police.

While being transported to the police station, Ventre allegedly complained of stomach pain and said he would kill himself and harm others in the process, so police took him to the hospital to be evaluated. He was ordered to have no contact with the victim.

State lawmakers push for bath salt ban


If East Bridgewater detective Michael Jenkins catches a suspect in town with the dangerous synthetic drug known as “bath salts,” he can’t criminally charge the person.

Jenkins said his only recourse is to cite the suspect with a misdemeanor under Massachusetts public health law, and issue a fine of $50 to $100.

This is despite a federal law signed by President Barack Obama on July 9 that outlaws synthetic drugs, including some chemicals found in bath salts.

“Our hands are kind of tied,” Jenkins said Monday. “Even though there’s a federal ban, state and local authorities have no jurisdiction over federal law. We’re not federal law enforcement officers.”

State lawmakers are hoping to change that.

For several months, lawmakers including state Sen. John Keenan, D-Quincy, and state Rep. George Ross, R-Attleboro, have been pushing for a state ban of bath salts. Keenan said he wants to make bath salts illegal in Massachusetts to avoid any ambiguities that may arise from different interpretations of the federal law.

“We need the same course of action here at the state level, that it’s made clear that in Massachusetts these substances are banned, that they’re not on the shelves,” Keenan said.

The ban was tacked on to another Senate bill co-authored by Keenan to monitor prescriptions for opiate painkillers. Ross first sponsored the bill to make bath salts a controlled substance after several constituents approached him.

Ross and Keenan are among state lawmakers who hope the bill passes before the end of the legislative session tonight. Tuesday night.

“It’s very important,” Ross said. “I had a lot of people backing me up on it, law enforcement, health officials, parents of kids who were addicted.”

Bath salts, which are synthetic psychoactive drugs, have grown tremendously in popularity in recent years, sold under names such as “Spice” or “Vanilla Sky” in head shops, smoke shops and convenience stores.

A man in Miami was reportedly under the influence of bath salts in June when he attacked a homeless man, biting off pieces of his face and swallowing them.

The substance began showing up in the U.S. within the past two years and has been mostly unregulated.

On Thursday, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration announced it had seized more than $36 million in cash and arrested 91 people in a nationwide crackdown on synthetic drugs including bath salts and fake marijuana. Five million packets of synthetic drugs were seized.

Jenkins said that without a state ban “it is almost impossible” to enforce the new federal law in Massachusetts, unless it’s a collaborative effort with federal authorities on larger drug cases.

And local police expect to see more of it.

“We’re kind of bracing ourselves for it. It’s almost like the calm before the storm,” said West Bridgewater police Sgt. Tim Nixon, also a member of the WEB Major Crimes and Drug Task Force.

The drugs are considered so dangerous that in December, Abington police charged a local man with attempted manslaughter for selling them.

Jenkins, of East Bridgewater police, also  said the federal law is a good start, but it “will not dramatically curb use of bath salts.”

“These drugs are constantly changing and the manufacturers will make a small chemical alteration to their formulas and they won’t fall under the law,” Jenkins said.

Bath salts may be as addictive as cocaine


Recreational drugs called bath salts, which have gained popularity recently and have been in the news for their bizarre effects on users, have the potential for abuse and addiction, similar to that of cocaine.

Bath salts, which, despite their name, have no use in the tub, are different variations of the compound called cathinone, an alkaloid that comes from the khat plant. Currently, 42 U.S. states have laws banning many substituted cathinones. Mephedrone is one of the most common derivatives of cathinone and was listed federally in October 2011 on Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act for one year, pending further study. Then on July 9, 2012, President Barack Obama signed a law placing bath salts containing mephedrone or the stimulant MDPV onto the controlled substances list.

The drugs can cause a laundry list of body and mind changes, including dizziness, delusions, paranoia, suicidal thoughts, seizures, nausea, vomiting and even death.

In the study, Malanga and his colleagues trained mice to spin a wheel to receive a reward. In this case, the reward was direct stimulation of a brain circuit involved in reward perception. The electrical stimulation came from electrodes implanted into the mice’s brains.

“These are tiny, tiny currents at the very tip of a tiny, tiny electrode, delivering the current to very specific and discrete brain circuits,” said Dr. C.J. Malanga, an associate professor of neurology, pediatrics and psychology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine.

Called intracranial self-stimulation, the method has been used since the 1950s to look at whether drugs activate reward areas of the brain. The thinking goes that when the electrical stimulation is intense enough for the mice to perceive it as rewarding, these mice will work hard to spin the wheel and get more of that reward. “If you let them, an animal will work to deliver self-stimulation to the exclusion of everything else — it won’t eat, it won’t sleep,” Malanga told LiveScience. [10 Easy Paths to Self Destruction]

During the study, the researchers measured wheel-spinning effort before, during and after the implanted mice received various doses of either mephedrone or cocaine.

“All drugs of abuse, regardless of how they act in the brain — heroin, morphine, cocaine amphetamine, alcohol, do the same thing to ICSS, they increase its rewarding value,” Malanga said. So for a lower electrical stimulation, one that wasn’t considered rewarding previously, the mice drugged with cocaine, say, would then be willing to spin the wheel.

It turned out that mephedrone had the same reward potency as cocaine, causing the mice to work for the reward at lower stimulations.

The study results, published online June 21 in the journal Behavioural Brain Research, suggest mephedrone and similar drugs have significant addiction potential, supporting the recent ban on the sale of bath salts in the United States, signed on July 9, Malanga said.

‘You sold my son bath salts. I’ll kill you’: Furious father smashes up shop that sold boy legal drugs which left him in hospital


  • A mother was charged with trespassing two weeks ago after she started shouting at staff in a shop that sold ‘bath salts’
  • These drugs can be sold legally in the US as long as they are not marked for human consumption
  • In high doses, the chemicals can cause violent behaviour and terrifying hallucinations

into a rage and smashed up a shop that supplied legal ‘bath salts’ type drugs that put his son in hospital.

Justin Avery, 24, was taken to New York’s Samaritan Hospital after snorting a powder labelled ‘glass cleaner’ that his friends had called ‘fake cocaine’.

According to police reports, his father Dan then called the store where his son had paid $20 for the legal high and left a message saying: ‘You sold my kid bath salts and I’ll [expletive] kill you’.

Dangerous trade: 'Bath salts' and 'glass cleaner' are synthetic highs named after the innocuous products because they can be legally sold if they are marked as not for human consumptionDangerous trade: ‘Bath salts’ and ‘glass cleaner’ are synthetic highs named after the innocuous products because they can be legally sold if they are marked as not for human consumption

Justin had never used any drug stronger than marijuana, he said, but snorted the glass cleaner for the first time one evening because he was upset and had heard it would give him a buzz.

But by 1.30am his heart was racing wildly, he was sweating heavily and his breathing had become so laboured he thought he would die.

Three days earlier, a friend of the 24-year-old’s had apparently called Avery Sr hallucinating, afraid that people were trying to kill him.

Justin said the friend had also used the so-called ‘glass cleaner’ bought at Tebb’s Headshop, according to syracuse.com.

Avery drove to Tebb’s, based in a little strip mall, carrying a miniature wooden baseball bat in his truck, as usual.

The slight 5’7″, 120-pound man then chased off waiting customers, screaming, ‘You need some bath salts?’

Shop worker Trevor Harding arrived and opened up, while Mr Avery went to his 2003 Ford Explorer and slid the bat into his trousers. He then went into Tebb’s and pretended to be one of the customers he had just chased away.

CRIMEWAVE TRIGGERED BY USERS HIGH ON LEGAL DRUG ‘BATH SALTS’

Bath salts are likely to be stimulant drugs such MPDV or ephedrine. The phrase does not refer to a single chemical, but instead to a range of synthetic drugs that can be sold legally in the US as long as they are not marked for human consumption – hence the misleading name.

In high doses, such drugs can cause violent and unpredictable behaviour, and terrifying hallucinations. Here are just a few of the recent crimes said to have been triggered by the dangerous drugs:

  • ‘Miami Cannibal’ Rudy Eugene was thought to have taken bath salts before stripping and pouncing on a homeless man and chewing off his face. He was shot dead. Although he did not take bath salts, it is believed he influenced a number of later attacks.
  • Brandon DeLeon, 21, allegedly tried to bite off a police officer’s hand after he was arrested for disturbing customers in a Miami fast food restaurant. He yelled at officers: ‘I’m going to eat you.’ The police report noted that he ‘growled and opened and closed his jaw like an animal.’
  • Carl Jacquneaux, 43, allegedly bit a chunk out of his neighbour’s face while on the drug before going to another neighbour’s home in Scott, Louisiana and threatening him at knife point.
  • Shane Shuyler, 40, allegedly stripped off and laid naked on a park bench in North Miami while under the influence of bath salts. He exposed himself to a three-year-old girl before chasing her and shouting lewd comments.
  • Pamela McCarthy, 35, allegedly stripped naked and began choking and punching her son, four, in the street after taking bath salts. Police used a Taser to subdue her and she went into cardiac arrest and later died.

He asked for bath salts or glass cleaner, he recalled, and Harding put a round blue-and-orange package on the glass countertop.

He claims Harding then pulled out a magazine and opened it to a page that showed him how much glass cleaner to take.

‘That’s when I just went crazy,’ said Avery. He pulled the bat out of his pants and started swinging. He smashed the five-foot-long glass counter and a couple of glass ashtrays. Then he started flinging glass pipes from shelves at  Harding.

‘Here’s a nice one,’ Avery remembers yelling as he threw the pipes. ‘Here’s another nice one.’

He chased Harding back and forth behind the counter and the pair grappled before Avery returned his bat to the car and gave Harding a lecture.

He said he told Harding: ‘You’re a sick man to sell this to these kids, knowing it’s gonna twist their minds. You’re pathetic.’

Then he asked Harding for the store phone and called the police to tell them what he had done.

After 10 to 15 minutes, police arrived and took him into custody. They charged him with two felonies – criminal mischief and criminal possession of a weapon – which carry a maximum prison sentence of seven years.

The police report says Avery threatened to kill Harding in the store. but Avery said he only intended to scare the clerk.

‘I wanted them to know why I did it,’ he said. ‘The cop asked me and I said, “So people will know. So other parents who don’t even know their kids can buy this type of drug will be aware.”

‘It sparked in my mind: It’s all over. I’ve lived my life for 30 years to do good, and tried to raise my kids to do good. But I couldn’t help it.’

He said he had thought about letting authorities handle it, but the law does not consider those products illegal.

The day after Avery’s violence, federal agents and local police raided Tebb’s and other head shops across the country. Agents seized the Watertown store’s supply of glass cleaner, among other products, Mr Harding said in an interview.

He said said the store did not sell bath salts because they’re illegal, and claimed the shop was being wrongly accused of peddling harmful drugs.

A U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent filed an affidavit last week in Syracuse federal court to get a search warrant for the store raids. In it, he listed glass cleaners as one of the names drug sellers use to disguise ‘highly dangerous chemicals that are ingested by recreational drug users’ as a substitute for marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy and methamphetamine.

The raids follow months of horrific crimes by people disoriented by synthetic drugs.

Another frustrated parent, a mother in Batavia, was charged with trespassing two weeks ago after she tried to buy bath salts at a head shop there, then started yelling at employees.

Neither police nor prosecutors would comment on their plans for Avery.

‘We don’t want people acting as vigilantes,’ said police Sgt. Joe Donoghue.

Jefferson County District Attorney Cindy Intschert said prosecutors would consider many factors when evaluating the case, as they do in all others.

In his blog, Watertown Mayor Jeff Graham asked, ‘What juror votes to convict the guy for busting up a head shop that was selling bath salts to his 24-year-old son?’

Avery, who earns $2,400 a month setting up double-wide and modular homes, said he was worried about having enough money to hire a lawyer.

‘I was being a father,’ he added.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2181018/Justin-Avery-Furious-father-smashes-shop-sold-24-year-old-legal-drugs-left-hospital.html#ixzz22A4MN81T

What do you think about the ban on herbal incense spice – k2


This year we have worked hard as bloggers to bring you all the news, reviews on herbal incense spice.  Over the last week it has been a blow to the spice market. The DEA has cracked down and put 90% of the business out of business.  75% of the manufacturers  have been raided, some people have been arrested.  Many had there products taken by the DEA for testing.

 

Since we are the largest blog online for all the spice news, we want to hear your input.  We want to know what are readers think about this ban and all the action the DEA and law enforment has taken over this last week.

Share your comments with all our readers and chat with others.  We are getting about 100o times more hits to our blog.  We are now getting over 35,00o hits per day.  Thats a jump from about 3000 were used to getting.  HUGE JUMP in only a week.  We are working around the clock to bring you all the latest news.  At this time we are not posting reviews about spice, only news.  Thanks for your support and helping us have the largest news platform for synthetic drugs.  If you have any news you would like to post please contact us.

Legal but Dangerous: Synthetic drug causing problems in Casa Grande


The “spice” container reads: “Warning This Product is Not For Human Consumption.” It’s marketed as incense, herbs or potpourri, but you won’t find it at your local home or candle store. You’ll find this spice at the local convenience and liquor stores, gas stations and smoke shops.The problem with this dangerous drug is so big that President Barack Obama signed the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act of 2012 in early July. The law bans synthetic marijuana and other synthetic drugs like “bath salts,” which are commonly sold as plant food. They have nothing in common with the toiletries used to soften skin.

But the manufacturers simply change the formula slightly to stay one step ahead of the law.

No numbers are yet available for emergency calls resulting from using spice, but the American Association of Poison Control Centers reported more than 6,100 emergency calls about bath salt drugs in 2011 — up from just 304 in 2010 — and more than 1,700 calls in the first half of 2012.

What exactly is spice?

“People say that it’s synthetic marijuana,” said Cindy Schaider, executive director of the Casa Grande Alliance. “It’s not marijuana — in fact that’s part of the danger. People in the first place erroneously believe marijuana is safe — which it’s not — but then if marijuana is safe, then synthetic marijuana would be safe. Neither one is safe, but spice is a really dangerous drug.”

The National Institute on Drug Abuse defines spice as a wide variety of herbal mixtures that produce experiences similar to marijuana (cannabis) and that are marketed as safe, legal alternatives to that drug.

Spice looks like dried grass clippings or shredded plant materials, but it contains chemical additives responsible for mind-altering effects that have been linked to violent behavior across the United States.

According to the National Association for Addiction Professionals, there are two receptors in the human brain that react to cannabinoids. One reduces pain and the other allows people to “get high.” Synthetic or natural substances used to get high can have many other effects on humans: severe anxiety, panic attacks, disassociation, racing thoughts, hallucinations, rapid pulse (tachycardia) and death/suicide.

“The chemical in marijuana stimulates the part of the brain called the cannabinoid receptor and that is what gives them the feeling of intoxication,” Schaider said. “Spice has synthetically created a similar chemical — they spray it on these leaves so when you smoke it, it stimulates that part of your brain.”

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration was able to get five of the major chemicals banned for a one-year period but companies that produce spice are constantly reformulating the chemicals to stay one step ahead of law enforcement.

What smokers say

It’s legal to buy yet everyone I interviewed didn’t want to provide a real name.

“James,” 45, smokes spice every day. “I’ve been smoking it for a couple years — it’s off the chain!” James said. “It’s awesome — for one thing it doesn’t show up on my job’s drug screen. I operate heavy equipment and am drug tested frequently.” James was constantly shifting and appeared nervous, while beads of sweat appeared on his face, despite the fact the interview was conducted in an air-conditioned building.

“You get the same effect as marijuana but you don’t get as sleepy or hallucinate — you get a high but it stops sooner — you stay high for an hour or two. I roll mine in a flavored blunt — try to cover up the taste.”

 

Mom, 40, and Daughter, 19, smoke spice together. This particular day they bought 10 grams of spice, the volume equivalent of $30 in marijuana. “We smoke spice because marijuana is too expensive,” they said.

Mom works in the behavioral health department at a Florence correctional facility. “Not only that but my job drug screens and this isn’t detectable. I’m a little scared and nervous about the things I’ve heard about it though,” she said.

“How people are ending up in diapers or losing their hair or have internal bleeding.” But that doesn’t stop them from using it. “It’s almost the equivalent of smoking marijuana,” Mom said. “Except this is a little more intense — it’s a quicker high but it goes away quicker too. There have been times when I smoked it and I’m sitting down — I have to literally think about what I’m going to do even if it’s just to go to the bathroom — I have to plan it out because I feel like I’m about to fall.”

Drivers under the influence of the drug may face charges of driving while impaired, said Officer Thomas Anderson of the Casa Grande Police Department.

Boyfriend, 28, and Girlfriend, 25, smoke spice regularly.

“I’ve smoked it quite a few times,” Boyfriend said. “It gives you a good high for 15 to 20 minutes. I’ve smoked some that has made me hallucinate — pretty wild.”

Girlfriend said she doesn’t believe it makes people sick.

“I think it’s just mass hysteria — it’s the legal way of smoking marijuana,” she said.

“It’s all a conspiracy made up by the government,” said Boyfriend. However, “I heard people died from it — that makes me nervous.”

Why do they sell it?

It’s legal to sell but the store owners don’t want to use their names.

One Casa Grande smoke shop owner said he didn’t know anything about it when asked if it was dangerous.

“It says not for human consumption,” he commented. “You seem to know more than I do about it.” Other questions received an answer of “no comment.”

A spokeswoman at Smoke’m, 1397 E. Florence Blvd., said the store sells spice as “exotic potpourri.” She said people are using it as synthetic marijuana. Her store doesn’t advertise the product and keeps it hidden behind the counter because children sometimes come into the store with parents.

“It’s [spice] not for human consumption — but it’s in my top six sellers — it’s very common. One of my employees got sick off the old stuff and he had to take a couple of days off from work — flu-like symptoms — it’s not for human consumption,” she said. The owner said she believes the drug will become illegal to sell eventually.

An employee at a liquor store in Casa Grande said she wouldn’t smoke it. She said the store has at least three regular customers, including one man who buys $30 a day in spice — that’s $900 per month.

All the stores I spoke with said they only sell the second generation of spice. However, one customer said he knew of one store that still had the original stuff — you just need to know how to ask for it.

After the first generation of spice and its chemical makeup were made illegal, developers of the product tweaked the molecular structure to avoid prosecution.

One family’s experience

Joe Rodriguez, 46, of Stanfield said he found out his 25-year-old son was smoking spice in November 2011.

“I didn’t know until I went through his room and found a little jar with a screw-on lid,” Rodriguez said. “I asked him, what is this?”

The son told him it was a legal form of cannabis since he couldn’t smoke pot at work due to drug testing.

Rodriguez said he noticed his son’s habits change — from the way he dressed to cleaning up his room.

“Stuff around the house started coming up missing — a PS3 I won at work, a watch and some other stuff,” he said. “I don’t know what he did with it — he just said he needed it. He acted totally different.”

The son had graduated from college with a computer science degree.

“This was a kid who could sit down, look at a computer and say ‘this is the problem’ without even touching it and now he’s forgetting it. My son taught me how to use a computer — he knows how to break them down, he knows code, he knows DOS. If you would have met him before he started smoking spice, he was respectful and a good kid.”

The son is now in the county jail on a misdemeanor charge for failure to appear in court. Rodriguez said one night his son got so angry he threw a speaker at his face, causing Rodriguez to need medical attention under his right eye. The son is scheduled to be released from jail later this month.

“Now he thinks somebody is following him, somebody’s bugging the house — he’s just paranoid,” he said. “This kid used to build robots in high school — this kid was smart.”

Rodriguez is worried the drug caused some permanent damage to his son.

“I know he’s not going to be the same,” he said. “But I’m hoping that he’ll stop it and move forward with his life because he’s a good kid.”

Affecting the community

“I’m really concerned about spice,” Schaider said. “We are part of the Pinal County Substance Abuse Council and put out a brochure each year about drug trends. This year our brochure is about spice and it’s perfectly legal to buy spice.”

Most employers screen with a general five-panel test, referred to as a NIDA-5. This standard test provides rapid results if marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines/methamphetamines, opiates and phencyclidine (PCP) are detected in the urine.

Donna McBride, spokeswoman for Pinal County Juvenile Court Services, said that last year the county was offered free testing for spice for all probationers.

“The numbers were quite high,” she said. “There is a specific test for spice — it’s quite frankly rather costly. If we have a probation officer that suspects a kid might be using this stuff, then they can request an additional testing.”

“When we test­ — we find kids using because it’s easily accessible,” she said. “Have we seen it increase? Yes, because it’s like a new fad — something that kids are going to gravitate toward — something new to try.”

McBride said that if the test comes back positive for spice, the probation officer sits down with the juvenile and the family to discuss counseling information and come up with a plan to help the juvenile. The juvenile is retested at a later date and faces consequences if the result is positive.

“If we start with this town, this county — and stop the sale of it,” Rodriguez said. “These kids are not going to drive to Phoenix to go get it. We can put a dent in stopping them from ruining our kids’ lives — or anybody’s lives.”

McBride offered up one way for the community to be more responsible.

“If you’re a business owner and you do drug testing, make sure that your drug test includes those drugs that are pertinent to our area, which includes spice and bath salts,” she said.

Drug empire outlined in court trial


An alleged gang boss stashed thousands of dollars worth of methamphetamine in Masterton cemeteries, a court has been told.

Paul Peter Mawana Rodgers, also known as Porky Rimene, is accused of distributing more than three kilograms of meth into the Wellington region between mid-2009 and early 2011.

The drugs would have had a street value of about $3 million.

Rodgers, 40, had so many places to bury drugs and money it was hard to keep track of them, a former associate, whose name was suppressed, said in the High Court at Wellington yesterday.

The witness said he was at Rodgers’ beck and call, was often beaten, did drug deals for him, and buried drugs and money at sites around Wellington and Wairarapa, often on the properties of neighbours, including in Island Bay and Strathmore.

A groundsman at Riverside Cemetery, Masterton, found a container of about $7000 worth of methamphetamine that had been buried at the base of a tree.

Another stash was almost lost when bulldozers went through a public walking track, shifting a container of drugs. The witness said he had to work at night with a hired metal detector to find it. Rodgers told him if he did not find it when he was digging he would be put in the hole instead, the witness said.

While Rodgers visited the graves of relatives at a private urupa in Kibblewhite Rd, Masterton, he directed the witness to bury drugs or money in the grounds or under nearby buildings.

The witness said more drugs were lost when he put a spade through a plastic container of methamphetamine and dirt contaminated the drugs. Rodgers hit him with the spade and charged him $15,000 for the ruined drugs.

“That’s just the kind of guy he is,” the witness said.

The witness said he managed to remove the dirt and salvaged some of the methamphetamine.

Giving evidence via closed circuit television, the witness said Rodgers spent money on the high life, going to restaurants, staying in hotels, buying gadgets and big screen televisions. “You name it, he had it.”

Rodgers went on a spending spree, buying enormous American cars and customising motorbikes. He changed BMWs and Mercedes if they became known to police.

“He liked American V8s and if he saw one he wanted he would buy it, on a whim almost,” the witness said.

Rodgers has pleaded guilty to supplying methamphetamine between July 2009 and February 2011, offering to supply the drug, conspiring to obstruct the course of justice, money laundering and taking part in a criminal group.

However, he disputes he had the leading role and is expected to deny he was the captain of the Wellington Nomads gang. Justice Stephen Kos has to decide the disputes.

In the High Court at Wellington yesterday prosecutor Simon Barr began presenting the evidence the Crown says proves the extent of the drug deals and Rodgers’ role in it.

The hearing continues today.

Many drugs remain legal after ‘bath salts’ ban


People are inventing so many new, legal ways to get high that lawmakers can’t seem to keep up.

 

Over the past two years, the U.S. has seen a surge in the use of synthetic drugs made of legal chemicals that mimic the dangerous effects of cocaine, amphetamines and other illegal stimulants.

 

The drugs are often sold at small, independent stores in misleading packaging that suggests common household items like bath salts, incense and plant food. But the substances inside are powerful, mind-altering drugs that have been linked to bizarre and violent behavior across the country. Law enforcement officials refer to the drugs collectively as “bath salts,” though they have nothing in common with the fragrant toiletries used to moisturize skin.

 

President Barack Obama signed a bill into law earlier this month that bans the sale, production and possession of more than two dozen of the most common bath salt drugs. But health professionals say that there are so many different varieties of the drugs that U.S. lawmakers are merely playing catch up.

 

“The moment you start to regulate one of them, they’ll come out with a variant that sometimes is even more potent,” said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

 

There are no back alleys or crack houses in America’s latest drug epidemic.

 

The problem involves potent substances that amateur chemists make, package and sell in stores under brands like “Ivory Wave,” “Vanilla Sky” and “Bliss” for as little as $15. Emergencies related to the drugs have surged: The American Association of Poison Control Centers received more than 6,100 calls about bath salt drugs in 2011 — up from just 304 the year before — and more than 1,700 calls in the first half of 2012.

 

The problem for lawmakers is that it’s difficult to crack down on the drugs. U.S. laws prohibit the sale or possession of all substances that mimic illegal drugs, but only if federal prosecutors can show that they are intended for human use. People who make bath salts and similar drugs work around this by printing “not for human consumption” on virtually every packet.

 

Barbara Carreno, a spokeswoman for the Drug Enforcement Agency, said the intended use for bath salts is clear.

 

“Everyone knows these are drugs to get high, including the sellers,” she said.

 

Many states have banned some of the most common bath salts, which are typically sold by small businesses like convenience stores, tobacco shops and adult book stores. For instance, West Virginia legislators banned the bath salt drug MDPV last year, making it a misdemeanor to sell, buy or possess the synthetic drug. Conviction means up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

 

Stephanie Mitchell, assistant manager of The Den, a tobacco and paraphernalia shop in Morgantown, W.Va., said the store hasn’t sold bath salts in the six months that she’s worked there. But strung-out users still come in and ask for them.

 

“They’re pretty … cracked out, I guess would be a good word,” said Mitchell, 21, a student at West Virginia University. “They’re just kind of not all there. They’re kind of sketchy people.”

 

Mitchell says she wouldn’t sell bath salts even if she had them, “because it’s horrible, and I could get in trouble for it.”

 

Despite the bans, bath salts producers are constantly tweaking their recipes to come up with new drugs that aren’t covered by local laws. In fact, Mark Ryan, director of the Louisiana Poison Center, says there are so many different drugs out there that it’s almost impossible to know what people have ingested, or how long the effects will last.

 

“Cocaine is cocaine and meth is meth. We know what these things do,” he said. “But with these new drugs, every time the chemist alters the chemical structure, all bets are off.”

 

 

 

The spread

 

The most common bath salt drugs, like MDPV and mephedrone, were first developed in pharmaceutical research laboratories, though they were never approved for medical use. During the last decade they became popular as party drugs at European raves and dance clubs. As law enforcement began cracking down on the problem there, the drugs spread across the Atlantic Ocean.

 

Poison control centers in the U.S. began tracking use of the drugs in 2010. The majority of the early reports of drug use were clustered in southern states like Louisiana, Tennessee and Kentucky. But the problem soon spread across the country.

 

The financial lure for small-time drugmakers is enticing. The drugs can be cheaply imported from China or India, and then easily packaged under local brands. For example, bath salts sold in Louisiana carry regional names like “Hurricane Charlie” or “Bayou.”

 

The widespread availability of the drugs in stores is equally alluring for drug users: they can get a cheap high similar to that of illegal drugs by walking to a corner store.

 

The most dangerous synthetic drugs are stimulants that affect levels of both dopamine and serotonin, brain chemicals that affect mood and perception. Users, who typically smoke or snort the powder-based drugs, may experience a surge in energy, fever and delusions of invincibility.

 

Use of these drugs has spread across the country with reports stretching from Maine to California. There are no official federal estimates on deaths connected with the drugs, many of which do not show up on typical drug tests. But police reports have implicated the drugs in several cases.

 

Packets of “Lady Bubbles” bath salts, for instance, were found on Sgt. David Franklyn Stewart last April after the solider shot and killed his wife and himself during a car chase with law enforcement near Olympia, Wash.

 

The chase began when Stewart sped past a police patrol car at 6 a.m. The police trooper pursued for 10 miles and reported seeing the driver raise a hand to his head, then heard a shot and saw the driver slump over. The next day police found the couple’s 5-year-old son dead in their home; he had been suffocated with a plastic bag at least 24 hours earlier.

 

Another death involving bath salts played out in Covington, La. Police reported that Dickie Sanders, 21, shot himself in the head Nov. 11, 2010 while his parents were asleep.

 

His father, Dr. Richard Sanders, said his son had snorted “Cloud 9” bath salts and endured three days of intermittent delirium, at one point attempting to cut his own throat. As he continued to have visions, his physician father tried to calm him. But the elder Sanders said that as he slept, his son went into another room and shot himself.

 

 

 

What’s ahead

 

Hospital emergency rooms, doctors and law enforcement agencies across the country have struggled to control bath salt drug users who often are feverish and paranoid that they are being attacked. Doctors say users often turn up naked because bath salts raise their body temperature so much that they strip off their clothing.

 

Cookeville Regional Medical Center in Tennessee has treated 160 people suspected of taking bath salts since 2010. Dr. Sullivan Smith, who works there, said people on the drugs become combative, and it can take four or five health professionals to subdue them.

 

In some cases, he said, doctors have to use prescription sedatives that are typically reserved for surgery.

 

Smith recalls one man who had been running for more than 24 hours because he believed the devil was chasing him with an ax. By the time police brought him to the hospital, he was dehydrated and covered in blood from running through thorny underbrush.

 

“We’re seeing extreme agitation, hallucinations that are very vivid, paranoia and some really violent behavior, so it’s a real crisis for us,” Smith said.

 

“We sedate the living daylights out of them.

 

“And we’re talking doses on the order of 10 or 20 times what you would give for a painful procedure,” Smith said.

 

To control the spread of the problem, the Drug Enforcement Agency issued a temporary ban in October on three of the most common drugs — mephedrone, methylone and MDPV. That ban became permanent under the bill signed by Obama on July 10.