From 2011 through early 2013, Florida has witnessed an increasing amount of stories and reports about synthetic drugs. For several months, many of these chemically engineered substances were sold in gas stations and corner convenience stores. Small plastic packets with graphics attractive to young people were used to promote the substances known as Spice (or K2) and various forms of bath salts.
Spice (K2) is a synthetic cannaboid, designed to mimic the euphoric effects of smoking marijuana. The substance itself can be similar in appearance to marijuana plant pieces and stems. Bath salts are often white/off-white powders or granules. Bath salts have been alleged to substitute the highs associated with cocaine or crystal meth use. The term “bath salt” is only a ploy and has nothing to do with the product’s intended use.
Complications and Disastrous Side Effects
Until quite recently, most variants of spice and bath salts were legal to sell openly, even to minors in some cases. However, experimentation with the once-legal substances may cause life-threatening results. Both types of synthetic drugs are manufactured in unregulated overseas laboratories. The potential side effects of spice and bath salts have been found to be much more severe than those associated with the known drugs they impersonate. The body’s heart rate increases, severe hallucinations result, and users have complained they are “dying” or “coming apart from the inside”
A 2011 ABC news story revealed emergency room accounts treating users:
“Bath salts have been linked to 2,500 calls to poison control centers nationwide, and can produce paranoia, hallucinations and rapid increase in heart rate and body. Washington state authorities are investigating whether a soldier who shot and killed his wife and then himself during a high-speed car chase in April was using bath salts.”
As of late 2012, more than 20 people have died in Florida from the use of bath salts. Since 2010, more than 11,000 emergency room visits nationwide involved the use of a synthetic cannaboid. An early known case involved a 23-year-old Tampa man, Jairious McGhee, who died of a total tissue breakdown produced by a 105-degree body temperature – all after attempting to fight off police and medics in a psychotic rage.
Florida Legislation Enacted to Ban Synthetic Drugs
Beginning in 2011, Florida legislators and the state attorney general began outlawing groups of synthetic drugs, adding them to Schedule I of the controlled substance statute. Overseas laboratories have since continued to alter chemical compounds just enough to skirt state law and allow for legal sale. Currently, no federal law exists to ban the sale or use of spice or bath salts.
In April of 2013, the Florida HOR passed a bill banning a total of 27 variants of synthetic drugs. This step follows Attorney General Pam Bondi’s 2011 emergency order which banned the substances, but remained temporary. Since the AG’s order was enacted, hundreds of arrests have been made throughout the state and even more convenience stores and other retailers have been shut down for continuing to sell synthetic drugs. Under current law, selling these substances is a third-degree felony. Governor Rick Scott approved the bill (SB 294), signing it into state law on April 24, 2013. With the law now in effect, any store who sells these items could be held liable for any injuries that result from the product’s use.