Convenience stores in Pinellas County that sell glass pipes and bongs could soon be required to post large warning signs on the front of their buildings.
County officials are proposing to add language to an ordinance that already requires stores selling pipes and other items marketed at head shops to keep them out of plain sight. If approved, the new regulation would require these stores to blatantly warn parents with signs saying that drug paraphernalia is for sale.
The sign's exact language is still under discussion, but Tim Burns, the county's director of Justice and Consumer Services, said he is proposing 3-inch lettering. On Tuesday, the County Commission unanimously agreed to hold a public hearing on the proposal. If it's approved, the new rule could be in place by September.
The new regulation is needed because of the increasing popularity of "synthetic marijuana," a term used for a number of drugs that go by K-2, Spice, and other kid-friendly names, Burns said.
While some of these substances have been banned, new ones constantly appear on store shelves as drugmakers try to stay one step ahead of legislation. Once taken, the drugs have been known cause severe hallucinations, vomiting, and seizures.
And like the marijuana they are meant to replace, synthetic drugs are often smoked, prompting stores to offer vast displays of pipes.
"You now have a significant number of convenience stores that are starting to look more like head shops," Burns said.
Officials are also hoping that the signs will force businesses to choose between their teenage customers and their appearance of being family-friendly.
The county is also working on new regulations that would limit the sale of synthetic drugs, Burns said.
One drug of particular concern is a narcotic called kratom that appears in stores in pill-form and is made from the leaves of a tropical plant. Burns said he is worried that people who are already abusing prescription drugs could turn to kratom instead.
Anna M. Phillips can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8779.