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Brooksville council gives favorable review to ordinance banning synthetic drugs

Synthetic marijuana mimics the effects of marijuana but is sold over the counter and has been linked to convulsions, tremors and deadly overdoses.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Synthetic marijuana mimics the effects of marijuana but is sold over the counter and has been linked to convulsions, tremors and deadly overdoses.

BROOKSVILLE — An ordinance that would ban the sale of synthetic drugs posing as bath salts, incense and potpourri got unanimous support Monday on its first reading before the Brooksville City Council.

Under the proposal, anyone found possessing or selling synthetic drugs marketed under labels such as K-2 and Spice could face a civil penalty of up to $500 for a first-time offense.

The ordinance mirrors those passed recently by other municipalities that have cracked down on over-the-counter products known as "cannibinoids," which mimic the effects of marijuana but have been linked to convulsions, tremors and deadly overdoses.

Under the ordinance, a substance is considered a synthetic drug when it meets two or more conditions, including being advertised with a use that includes warnings typically not found on those products, such as "not for human consumption"; has packaging that makes claims such as "does not contain any chemical compounds prohibited by state law," "legal herbal substance" or "100 percent compliant guaranteed," or suggests the user will experience a high, euphoria, relaxation or mood enhancement; and is accompanied by misleading directions or a brand name similar to slang for illicit street drugs.

Brooksville Police Lt. Stephen Mislyan told council members that the ordinance would bring more clarity for officers when they are dealing with individuals suspected of selling the products, in that it broadens the definition of a synthetic drug. Although the majority of the chemicals used to manufacture the products have already been specifically banned by the state, manufacturers constantly alter their formulas to get around the state law.

"That's why we need this ordinance now," said City Council member Frankie Burnett. "I wish we could do a lot more."

A similar ordinance in Pasco County got its first test last month when a county judge found a mini-mart owner guilty of 47 violations and ordered him to pay a $23,558 fine. The Pasco rule has a fine of $500 per package.

Because the city's ordinance is based on a state statute that gives municipalities certain governing powers, violations would result in civil citations and not criminal arrests. Fines, which could range up to $1,000 for repeat offenders, would be determined by the city's hearing officer.

Several council members said they wished the penalties could be made stiffer.

Mayor Lara Bradburn suggested that seizing property belonging to anyone caught selling synthetic drugs would send a strong signal that such activity won't be tolerated in the city.

"Once they know we'll take their car, their house and their stuff, you would hope they would get the message," Bradburn said.

The ordinance will go before the City Council for its second reading on July 1.

Logan Neill can be reached at lneill@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1435.

Brooksville council gives favorable review to ordinance banning synthetic drugs 06/18/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 18, 2013 6:55pm]
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