Cloud Nine. Maui Wowie . Mr. Nice Guy. The names seem harmless, but the side effects of synthetic marijuana, can be as serious as a heart attack, experts say.
Photographer: Susannah Bryan, Sun Sentinel
On Tuesday night, Sunrise is expected to become the first city in Broward — and the second in the state — to ban the herbal incense meant to give those who smoke it a high.
Fake pot, known on the street as "Spice," "Mr. Nice Guy" and other colorful names, is sending the people who smoke it to the hospital or the morgue, experts say. Side effects include rapid heart rate, anxiety, nausea, seizures, hallucinations, renal failure and, in extreme cases, death.
Gas stations and convenience stores started pulling packets from shelves two weeks ago when Sunrise commissioners gave initial approval to a ban.
Sweetwater became the first city in Florida to pass a ban on synthetic marijuana in May.
Others may be close behind, including Broward and Miami-Dade counties, Coral Springs, Davie, Deerfield Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Hallandale Beach, Lauderhill, Pembroke Pines, Pompano Beach and Tamarac.
Deerfield Beach is expected to give final approval to a ban on June 19. Pompano Beach officials will take an initial vote Tuesday; Davie and Tamarac officials plan to vote on a similar ban in July.
"I know of one kid that has gone to the hospital," Davie Councilman Marlon Luis said. "Some of the other cities are going to ban it. I don't want them selling it in Davie when the other cities aren't allowing it."
Until the state steps in, the cities have no choice but to take action, Tamarac Mayor Beth Flansbaum-Talabisco said. "We have to do something because it's the right thing to do."
Sunrise also plans to make it illegal to manufacture fake pot and to sell bath salts — the synthetic drug police officials suspect that Rudy Eugene, the man dubbed the Causeway Cannibal, may have taken before attacking a homeless man in Miami.
In Sunrise, the same gas stations and convenience stores selling fake pot are selling so-called bath salts, Mayor Mike Ryan said.
The city's ban will not outlaw the sale of legitimate bath salts, but will target the chemical concoction of bath salts meant to get you high, Ryan said. Those bath salts are sold in small quantities for up to $35 a packet.
"They call them bath salts, but they are not used in baths," Ryan said. "It's another dangerous cocktail of chemicals. The key is to generate a definition for what it is, not what it's called. They're going to keep changing it and we're going to keep up with them. We're not giving up no matter how often they change the names or the chemicals."
Sweetwater says it became the first city in the nation to outlaw synthetic marijuana when it banned the sale of loose leaf or granular incense on May 21.
Manufacturers have skirted state and federal laws banning the chemicals by changing the compounds and labeling the packets as herbal incense "not for human consumption."
At least nine states, including Florida, have tried to outlaw the chemicals used to make synthetic marijuana. Florida law bans herbal incense, but only if it is for human consumption.
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