In another attempt to curb the use of products marketed as synthetic marijuana or fake cocaine, a new Pasco County ordinance makes it illegal to sell, possess or distribute any of the products described in the law.
The products are often sold in convenience stores, tobacco stores and head shops.
The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office won’t begin enforcing the ordinance passed Nov. 7 until after a letter goes to store owners telling them of the new regulation. There is no timetable for when that letter will go out, sheriff’s office spokesman Kevin Doll said in an email.
The law would apply to all retailers in the county, including those inside cities.
The ordinance is intended as another effort to stop the sale of the synthetic marijuana, sometimes marketed under the names Spice and K2 and products marketed as bath salts intended to mimic cocaine. They are sold as legal alternatives to the drugs, despite federal and state efforts to outlaw them.
Manufacturers have thwarted federal and state laws to ban the products by changing the chemical compounds each time a law passes to replace the illegal ingredients with another formula not covered by laws.
Instead of targeting the chemical components of the products which would require a chemical analysis to prove a product is illegal, the Pasco law would let deputies focus on the packaging and how the items are displayed, packaged and sold.
The ordinance provides a lengthy definition of the synthetic marijuana and faux cocaine that includes more than 70 street names for the marijuana products and 40 street names for the bath salts. It does not specify the chemical make-up of the products.
Manufacturers also have tried to skirt the federal and state laws by marking products “not for human consumption” or calling them plant food, incense or potpourri. The new law makes it illegal to sell something for human consumption that claims it isn’t.
The new law also goes after drug paraphernalia such as bongs, water pipes, roach clips or miniature cocaine spoons by making them illegal for minors to possess, making it illegal to sell them to minors and limiting how stores can display the items.
Under the law, store owners would have to segregate the paraphernalia to a separate room with a closed door or ban minors from entering the store without an adult if the items are displayed openly. Anyone under 18 couldn’t enter the store alone.
Any store displaying the paraphernalia would have to post a sign saying the items are on display.
The new law is another effort by the Sheriff’s Office to attack the retail sale of fake drugs that can cause seizures, agitation and suicidal thoughts. The use is becoming more widespread, according to a memo to county commissioners about the ordinance.
The American Association of Poison Control Centers reported 2,900 calls about synthetic marijuana in 2010. By 2011, that number jumped to more than 6,900, the memo said.
Last month Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco unveiled one of five billboards touting a campaign with stores that agree not to sell the synthetic drugs. Stores that agree not to carry the items will have notices on the door announcing they do not sell the products.
Four billboards that tell the public about the stickers will be in west Pasco and one will be near Zephyrhills.
“It’s destroying teenagers. It alters their brains forever,” Nocco said at a press conference Oct. 11.
“Kids were using it because of convenience. The reason why it became so big was because it was sold over the counter,” he said.