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Now browsing: Hometown News > News > Volusia County

DeLand debating synthetic drug ban
Rating: 3.06 / 5 (32 votes)  
Posted: 2012 Nov 16 - 06:15



By Patrick McCallister

For Hometown News



DELAND - The City Commission is inching toward making the sale of so-called artificial cannabis and bath salts, designer psychoactive substances, into a code violation that could include revocation of a business license.


The DeLand commission has a lot of options. It could opt to do nothing about the sale of artificial cannabis and bath salts, sold mainly at independent convenience stores; pass a resolution urging the Florida Legislature to do more to outlaw them; or make the sale of the products a code violation with fines that could include the price tag of a revoked business license.

Mayor Robert "Bob" Apgar said he'd like to see the sale of the products at least be a code violation with a fine, but others on the commission don't seem as warm to the idea.

"(I'll) softly pursue it," Mayor Apgar said in an interview. "If the will of the commission is to rely on legislative action, then I'll pursue it through legislative action."

Other Volusia County cities aren't waiting for the next 60-day session of the Florida Legislature, March 5 to May 3, which will already likely be overwhelmed with discussions about the newly-controversial Stand Your Ground law and post-election talk about more voting reforms to reduce the long waits many voters experienced this year. Additionally, the reelection of President Barack Obama makes repeal of the Affordable Care Act unlikely, and the state will have to make decisions about whether and how to create health-insurance exchanges and other acclamations to the law.

At press time, Daytona Beach, Daytona Beach Shores, Holly Hill, Ormond Beach and South Daytona were closing in on adopting ordinances that make the sale of synthetic cannabinoids and designer psychoactive substances, commonly called K2 and bath salts, code violations with fines.

But that often turns into legislative Whac-A-Mole. Earlier this year, Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation banning 142 chemical designations containing hallucinogenic substances. Area law-enforcement officials say that as legislators ban chemicals, makers go to work redesigning their products to be legal. Deland Police Chief Bill Ridgway wasn't available for comment.

Mayor Apgar said it will likely be January before the DeLand commission has a proposed ordinance to discuss. Commissioner Vonzelle Johnson said he'd likely vote against any proposed ordinance in January. However, he said he'd back efforts to get the Florida Legislature to craft laws that seal the legal leaks chemists find to slip the products through.

"I think it's more a state issue," he said. "If that doesn't happen, I'd like to see what we can do at the local level."

Mr. Johnson worked for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs treating drug use, abuse and addiction. The mayor said that existing drug users, abusers and addicts aren't likely the largest consumers of artificial cannabis and designer psychoactive substances.

"They know how to get the real thing," he said.

However, that's often not the case with curious young experimenters who turn to K2 and bath salts as experimental drugs.

"These synthetic drugs are creating opportunities for particularly young people to utilize them in the same way that real marijuana is used," Mayor Apgar said. "I think it's a health safety kind of issue."

Robyn Harrington Schmidt, a co-founder of Stand UP, a DeLand support group for families affected by drug addiction and abuse, said the products are gateway drugs, and gateways back to old ones.

"It seems a lot of mothers, fathers and aunts who show up (at Stand UP meetings) thinking their children were doing better, that what they're finding now is they use (artificial cannabis) as a method to try to pass their (urinalysis) for drug court," she said. "It's a way to get high and fly under the radar with it."

She said her group is getting an increasing number of reports about medical emergencies caused by the substances.

"We have had some say that people did it and became violently ill and have had to go to the hospital," she said. "The mentality is it's legal, how can it hurt me?"

Ms. Harrington Schmidt said her family has been affected by the products.

"My own son, he thought he was doing OK, because he could use the K2," she said. "Before long that didn't do it anymore and he started chasing his old dragon."

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