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Pasco sheriff's challenger offers advice in battle against synthetic drugs

DADE CITY — Pasco commissioners have been working with Sheriff Chris Nocco on an ordinance to combat synthetic drugs such as "Spice" or "K2." On Tuesday, they got some help from his opponent in the Nov. 6 election, former sheriff's Capt. Kim Bogart.

Bogart suggested borrowing some ideas from Adelanto, Calif., a small town outside Los Angeles, which crafted a unique ordinance to fight the sale of such drugs in convenience stores.

"They were dealing with exactly the same problem," said Bogart, noting that drug makers are constantly inventing new chemical compounds to evade specific bans on key ingredients. "What this ordinance does is it focuses on the sales and marketing of the product, which is, I think, an angle that works."

Such products are often sold under inconspicuous labels, labeled as bath salts, incense or other household products. Bogart said the ordinance allows officers to confiscate products based on several key factors, such as whether they look similar to illegal drugs and are priced significantly higher than the product they claim to be. Authorities say such drugs have been linked to delusional, violent behavior and, in some cases, permanent psychosis and deadly overdoses.

"It would take it off the shelves where it's not in front of our children," Bogart said.

County Attorney Jeff Steinsnyder said his staff has been working with Nocco's staff on a proposed ordinance that would also target marketing aspects and would put a store owner's business license at risk if officers confiscate such products.

"We'll be happy to look at the city of Adelanto and incorporate those provisions that work for Florida law," he said.

Steinsnyder said his staff, along with Nocco, plan to present a proposed ordinance to commissioners in October.

The Sheriff's Office has waged a high-profile campaign against Spice and other synthetic drugs. In conjunction with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, deputies raided a father-son outfit in June that sold hundreds of thousands of dollars of synthetic drugs each month from an Odessa warehouse. Nocco also launched a sticker program for stores to tout they do not sell such drugs.

Last month deputies tried a new legal strategy: They charged clerks at 15 convenience stores with possessing and selling imitation controlled substances. Undercover detectives went into those stores, asking for something that would get them high. Authorities say the clerks offered Spice, often from a stash kept behind the counter.

Because the clerks were charged with selling "imitation" drugs, it doesn't matter if the product contained any of the ingredients banned by lawmakers. Nocco called it a "unique" approach to "pressure" store owners and employees.

Pasco sheriff's challenger offers advice in battle against synthetic drugs 09/11/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 11, 2012 7:15pm]
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