Bath salts, synthetic marijuana ban being pushed by Palm Beach County Commissioner Karen Marcus

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Palm Beach County Commissioner Karen Marcus is pushing for a ban on the sale of herbal incense, synthetic marijuana and bath salts.

Marcus said she plans to introduce the concept to the rest of the commissioners Tuesday and ask them to consider passing a law that would prevent the sale or display of the substances, which authorities say can currently give a legal high to those who smoke or ingest them.

If the commission agrees, the county attorney's office would begin researching an ordinance, Marcus said.

The commission is expected to begin discussing Marcus' request at a meeting Tuesday.

Marcus said the measure would be modeled after an ordinance approved last month by leaders of a city in Broward County that blocked businesses from selling or displaying synthetic marijuana, known on the street as "Spice."

The substances are readily available at many gas stations and convenience stores. Law enforcement officials say side effects from ingesting them can include hallucinations that last for days.

State lawmakers have passed laws the past two years banning bath salts, but local officials say that manufactures have continued to find a way to keep the items on the shelves by changing the ingredients or marking the packages with a warning that they are not intended for human consumption.

Marcus said she decided to bring the issue forward after receiving an email from a local parent about the problem and talking to a friend in Martin County whose son was addicted to herbal incense.

"This stuff puts holes in your brain," Marcus said. "This is ridiculous that it is just something that (kids) can go into the gas station and get."

Last month, Sunrise became the first city in Broward County, and the second in the state, to ban the sale and display of herbal incense. Businesses that violate the ban face code enforcement fines.

Sunrise officials are also working on an ordinance that would block businesses from manufacturing the substance.

Despite state laws regulating the substances, Sunrise Mayor Michael Ryan said city police officers were unable to keep the items off of store shelves. Ryan pointed to a loophole that he said lets businesses sell the substances as long as they are not intended for human consumption.

"We have never faced a public safety threat quiet like this," Ryan said. "Here there is an entire industry that is pouring millions of dollars into marketing this as benign and safe. In reality they are unregulated and no one knows what they are putting in it."

In a memo to commissioners, Marcus said she had discussed the ban with Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw and he said the legislation would help his office combat this "growing problem."

But Dr. David Bohorquez, the Emergency Department Medical Director at St. Mary's Medical Center in West Palm Beach, said that he has not seen many cases involving the items.

"Those aren't the things that people overdose on," Bohorquez said.


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