PORT ST LUCIE, Fla. — The sale of synthetic marijuana and bath salts has been banned at local stores as the city joined a national effort to outlaw selling synthetic compounds that mimic the effects of illegal drugs.
The ordinance passed during Monday's council meeting also will prohibit the display and distribution of those synthetic drugs, which are popular among teenagers and usually sold at smoke shops and convenience and liquor stores. Often labeled as not for human consumption and sold under names such as herbal incense, those substances can be purchased by minors and used as a substitute for ecstasy, marijuana, cocaine and amphetamines.
In 2011, the Florida Attorney General added compounds within synthetic drugs to the state's list of controlled substances. When that happened, Port St. Lucie Police went to businesses selling the drugs and asked them to remove them from their shelves, Chief John Bolduc said.
But as new substances have been deemed illegal by state and federal Legislature, manufacturers, most of them overseas, have found ways to quickly create new chemical compounds to skirt the law. To counteract that, the new ordinance will prohibit the sale of substances not yet considered illegal.
"They throw just about any chemicals in it," Bolduc said. "The kids smoking (synthetic drugs) certainly don't know what they are getting."
Although Port St. Lucie currently does not have any establishments selling synthetic drugs, Bolduc said the city created the new law as a preventive measure and to follow other governments in Florida that have done the same, such as Tampa and Pasco and Hillsborough Counties.
"There's no FDA control and there's no legitimate purpose for these compounds," Bolduc said.
The State Legislature is now working on two bills that would add more substances to the list of illegal drugs and make the sale and manufacturing of those substances a third-degree felony.
Synthetic marijuana, usually marketed as the brand Spice, is a mixture of herbal plant products sprayed with toxic substances and can cause psychotic episodes, nausea, vomiting, hallucinations, seizures and paranoid behavior. Bath salts are often sold by names such as Ivory Wave and Vanilla Sky. They have been linked to an increase in drug poisoning cases across the country and can lead to liver and kidney failure.
In March, a St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office initiative resulted in 48 arrests as deputies targeted youths in possession of synthetic drugs, alcohol and tobacco and businesses that might have been selling the items to minors. The operation was part of a broader effort in more than half of Florida's 67 counties.