Saturday, December 16, 2017
Editorials

Editorial: Cracking down on synthetic marijuana

The clandestine purchases required a customer code word and a store owner willing to stock synthetic marijuana under the counter and out of the sight of police and code enforcement officers. It didn't work. This week's enforcement of a Hillsborough County ordinance banning the sales of the contraband known commonly as Spice, K2 and bath salts produced civil citations that could total $1 million in fines to 10 retailers. County officials in Hillsborough and elsewhere should stay on this issue and signal to retailers they will no longer look the other way.

The volume of sales — the potential fines amount to $500 per package — and the efforts store owners will take to circumvent the six-month-old Hillsborough ordinance validate the continued diligence from law enforcement focusing on synthetic marijuana. The product, marketed as incense or plant food, is used particularly among teenagers and young adults as a narcotic. Side effects have included violent hallucinations, combativeness and suicide attempts, and at least 20 people statewide died of synthetic marijuana overdoses, according to 2011 data.

Hillsborough County isn't alone in this battle. Attorney General Pam Bondi issued an emergency order in December, banning 22 additional variations of the products and requiring retailers to remove the packages from their shelves. In May, a Pasco County judge fined the owner of a Holiday mini mart $23,500 after finding him guilty of 47 counts of violating that county's synthetic drug ordinance that targets the product's packaging rather than chemical contents. Beginning in 2012, Hernando County deputies visited more than 100 retailers, warning employees and store owners about the state laws banning Spice and K2. Officers later followed up with undercover purchases and the arrests of five people in the past two months. The cities of St. Petersburg, Tampa and Pinellas Park have passed ordinances, and last month Clearwater police confiscated more than 18,000 packets of the contraband from a single store.

The crackdown has pushed the sales underground and driven up the price (as much as $50 for a 14-gram packet), both indicators that easy availability is waning. Keeping young people safe by pursuing the adults peddling dangerous synthetic compounds is a worthwhile effort that needs to continue.

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Editorial: Warren’s smart approach on guns, domestic violence

Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren would make it safer for victims and police alike with his plan to remove firearms from defendants charged with domestic violence. These cases are toxic enough, and having guns at the ready only adds to a dang...
Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

Editorial: St. Petersburg council right to reject Bayfront deal

The St. Petersburg City Council made the difficult but correct decision this week to reject the proposed sale of a local nonprofit’s minority stake in Bayfront hospital. Despite months of negotiations, there were too many questions, a few suspicions ...
Published: 12/15/17
Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Editorial: Congress should fix flood insurance, children’s health insurance before Christmas

Here’s a snapshot of misplaced priorities in Washington. Last week, the Federal Communications Commission foolishly rushed to scrap net neutrality rules and allow internet service providers to treat different content differently despite overwhelming ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

Editorial: Scott’s smart changes to sexual harassment policy

With misconduct allegations rippling through all levels of government, Gov. Rick Scott has taken the prudent step of ordering uniform sexual harassment policies throughout state agencies. The executive order strengthens protections for victims, which...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

Editorial: MOSI faces a clean slate and should give everyone a piece of chalk

For three years, the only news about finances at Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry was bad news: "Struggling MOSI asks Hillsborough County for $400,000 loan," one headline read, "Audit sees MOSI finances slipping," read another, and "MOSI donor ...
Published: 12/14/17
Updated: 12/15/17
Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

Editorial: Rubio should make good his threat to oppose tax cuts without changes

For once, it would be nice to see Sen. Marco Rubio stand up as the independent leader he aspires to become. For once, the Florida Republican should hold his position rather than bow to pragmatic politics. Rubio can stick with his threat Thursday to v...
Published: 12/14/17

Another voice: A shameful anniversary

Josephine "Joey" Gay should have celebrated her 12th birthday this week. She should have been surrounded by friends and family in a place festooned with purple, her favorite color.Chase Kowalski should have been working toward a Boy Scout merit badge...
Published: 12/13/17
Updated: 12/14/17
Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Editorial: Congress should block efforts to expand offshore drilling

Timing is everything, and Sen. Bill Nelson seized the right moment this week to call on his colleagues to pass legislation he filed earlier this year that would block the Trump administration from opening additional areas to offshore drilling. With t...
Published: 12/13/17

Another voice: Alabama picks an honorable man

THANK YOU, Alabama.In Tuesday’s special election, the state by a narrow margin chose to spare the nation the indignity of seating an accused child molester in the U.S. Senate. Though the stain of electing Republican Roy Moore would have sullied Alaba...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/13/17
Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

Editorial: Tax cuts aren’t worth harm to Tampa Bay

As congressional negotiators hammer out the details on an enormous, unnecessary tax cut, the potential negative impact on Tampa Bay and Florida is becoming clearer. The harmful consequences stretch far beyond adding more than $1.4 trillion to the fed...
Published: 12/12/17