BROOKSVILLE — The rapid proliferation of synthetic marijuana and other drugs has long been a concern of Hernando County's law enforcement community. But despite the history of dangerous overdoses, it seems that a new wave of over-the-counter concoctions hits store shelves every few months.
The problem is so widespread that many municipalities have sought to ban the sale of chemicals commonly referred to as "bath salts" and other synthetic stimulants.
A proposed ordinance that would ban the sale of such substances inside Brooksville's city limits received the support of a majority of the City Council on Monday night, though the council tabled the measure.
Part of the reason, said Mayor Lara Bradburn, is that an emergency order signed last week by state Attorney General Pam Bondi added 22 compounds to Florida's existing synthetic drug ban.
A corresponding city ordinance banning those substances wasn't needed.
The ordinance will come back before the council once lawyers can further review it.
Hernando County does not have a similar ordinance. But Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Denise Moloney said deputies do random checks to enforce state laws.
Bradburn said that while she welcomed the recent state measure, she would have liked to have seen the ordinance passed Monday night to ensure that the city would have a means to quickly ban additional synthetic drugs that may come along.
"These drugs are being invented faster than lawmakers can ban them," Bradburn said. "Getting ahead of the curve is important. This stuff is very dangerous."
Statistics provided by the American Association of Poison Control Centers show that in 2010, 2,906 calls were made to authorities across the United States relating to exposures to synthetic marijuana and 304 calls relating to incidents involving what are known as bath salts.
In 2011, the number of calls for such incidences more than tripled.
Earlier this year, Brooksville police officers hand-delivered notices to stores suspected of selling illegal synthetic substances marketed as bath salts and known by street names such as spice and K2, warning owners that the city intended to strictly enforce laws prohibiting the sale of them.
Brooksville police Chief George Turner said that while states have moved aggressively to ban synthetic drugs, manufacturers of them have responded by simply altering chemical formulas to produce new versions that are not covered under existing laws.
"It's tough to stay ahead of them," Turner said.
Logan Neill can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 848-1435.