Monday, May 21, 2018
Editorials

Battle against synthetic marijuana a worthwhile focus for Pasco sheriff candidates

It is rare for Pasco sheriff candidates to find common ground in an election year. Traditionally, the highly charged political campaigns spur differing opinions on deputy response times, solving crimes, personnel deployment, spending, strained relationships with the budget-approving County Cmmission, internal politicking, neighborhood patrols, tactical operations and even the extent of gang activity in the county.

There's one expected redundancy in the 2012 race: The well-deserved criticism of former Sheriff Bob White from all candidates except current Sheriff Chris Nocco.

More important and certainly more relevant than the Bob bashing, however, is recognition from remaining candidates Nocco, the Republican, and Kim Bogart, the Democrat, of the pressing public safety concerns tied to retail sales of synthetic marijuana.

The product, known as Spice, K2, bath salts and other names, is marketed as an incense or plant food. But it is widely used, particularly among teenagers, as a narcotic. Side effects have included violent hallucinations, combativeness and suicide attempts.

Nocco, appointed sheriff in 2011 following White's retirement, last month orchestrated raids of convenience stores and the arrest of 14 people. Whether the cases stick remains to be seen since the Sheriff's Office tried a new tactic — charging store employees with selling imitation controlled substances after they volunteered to undercover agents that the product would get them high. Nocco also started a sticker campaign to publicly identify and commend stores that refuse to stock the product.

Bogart, a former commander in prior Sheriff's Office administrations, this week shared his own research with the Pasco County Commission in seeking a county ordinance to discourage the sale of Spice at convenience stores.

Manufacturers have been able to stay one step ahead of law enforcement agencies by altering the chemicals used in the synthetic compounds previously banned by state and federal authorities.

Toward that end, Bogart asked the county to mirror an ordinance from Adelanto, Calif., which targets the sales and marketing of the manmade narcotics, rather than the chemical make-up of the product. Violators can be shut down and lose their business licenses. The County Attorney's Office said it already was drafting a similar proposal and plans to present it to the County Commission next month.

Surely there will be much public debate over the next seven weeks as Bogart and Nocco both seek voter support. But, trying to keep young people safe by pursuing the adults pedaling dangerous synthetic compounds is a worthwhile platform plank from both camps.

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