PINELLAS PARK — Council members here are ready to ban synthetic drugs and herbs that mimic the effects of marijuana and illegal narcotics.
The ban would include the use, possession and sale by businesses as well as individuals and would carry a potentially hefty penalty, especially for retailers: $500 plus court costs and attorney fees per violation. Each package would count as one violation. Police would also seize the drugs.
The list of substances to be banned is lengthy. It includes such things known as spice, bath salts, K2, Mr. Happy and bliss.
Council members gave the measure tentative approval at last week's council meeting. They're scheduled to give final approval at their May 9 meeting at 7:30 p.m. in the council chambers, 5141 78th Ave. N. The meeting is open to the public.
Pinellas Park police Chief Dorene Thomas said the city does not have a big problem with such substances. But St. Petersburg recently passed an ordinance banning the substance known as spice, a synthetic marijuana, and other cities are also considering similar measures, she said. That could spell trouble for centrally located Pinellas Park.
"If you drive them out of one city, you drive them into another," Thomas said. "We're trying to keep pace with some of the other (communities). … We're trying to do a preventive measure."
Council member Rick Butler, who has pushed for the city to develop the ordinance, said it's badly needed. Butler conceded that he's not sure how effective the ban would be when people could simply step outside the city limits into unincorporated Pinellas County and buy the synthetics.
"The county hasn't done anything," he said.
But, Butler said, the ban "sends a message" that the city wants to keep out synthetic drugs and herbs.
"It's bad," Butler said of the synthetic drugs and their effects on users.
Pinellas Park council members last week also approved a resolution urging retailers to stop selling flavored tobacco products to youth. The move came at the request of a group called Students Working Against Tobacco, or SWAT.
Thomas said police are going to retailers to tell them of the request and asking that store managers at least move the flavored tobaccos away from candy and other items directed at youth.
Anne Lindberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8450.