Thursday, November 23, 2017
Public safety

Attorney General Pam Bondi bans more variations of bath salts, fake pot

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In the ongoing battle to outlaw commonly available synthetic drugs, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi used emergency powers Tuesday to ban 22 additional variations of the substances.

The new rules will help law enforcement keep harmful substances off store shelves, Bondi said — making it a third-degree felony for anyone to make, sell or deliver the banned types of substances known popularly as bath salts and synthetic marijuana.

"Our children are overdosing. These have now hit our entire state, and I just want to point out to you the marketing," Bondi said at a news conference. She pointed to a packet labeled "cotton candy." Another was branded "Scooby Snacks."

"These are marketed to children," she said.

Bondi said she will work with the Legislature to add new variations to its existing ban on some formulas used to manufacture the synthetics, making her emergency ban permanent.

While they welcome the new ban, law enforcement officials say it remains a challenge to crack down on their manufacture.

"They simply change the formula the next day," said Larry McKinnon, a Hillsborough County sheriff's spokesman.

While the state has been updating its ban on new variations of synthetics over the past several years, authorities are also testing parameters of the Federal Analog Act — which says that any chemical "substantially similar" to a controlled substance be treated as one if intended for human consumption.

Authorities made 15 arrests over the weekend in Hillsborough in a crackdown on the synthetic sales. All face charges under the federal act.

Marianne Pasha, spokeswoman for the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, said it is important for the attorney general to keep adding to the list of banned synthetics so law enforcement agencies can keep up.

The synthetics "are constantly being essentially recompounded into new substances that aren't on the list," she said. "It's trying to stay ahead of the manufacturers of these things. That's why it's important to keep the lists updated."

Last year, Bondi signed an emergency rule that temporarily outlawed methylenedioxypyrovalerone, the chemical found in bath salts. The ban was later made official by the Legislature.

Synthetic drugs, which are meant to mimic marijuana, ecstasy or cocaine, are known to cause psychotic episodes, hallucinations, seizures and paranoia.

In January, a 19-year-old man drowned in Clearwater's Kapok Park. A medical examiner's report later found that synthetic marijuana was a factor — the first time that fake pot was linked to a death in this area.

In October, the Tampa Bay Times found that more than 20 people in Florida had died from bath salts. And in the last two years, bath salts have been the suspected cause of a number of bizarre incidents.

In August, Pinellas deputies suspected a naked Oldsmar man who attacked them and two others had been using bath salts. They weren't able to subdue him with pepper spray, and eventually brought him down with a stun gun.

In April 2011, a Tampa man who had been using bath salts sped through a red light. Police were unable to slow him down with a Taser. His heart stopped five times and his temperature skyrocketed. He eventually died.

Staff writer Tia Mitchell contributed to this report.

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