VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. - Volusia County law enforcement cracked down on synthetic drugs, WFTV found out Monday.
Investigators said synthetic drugs cause a harmful high, and before
they were outlawed, they had become increasingly easy to find, marketed under a variety of unusual and exotic names ranging from Cloud Nine, Mind Trip, Mr. Happy, Mardi Gras, Scooby Snax and Maui Wowie.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi outlawed 22 chemicals commonly used in the manufacture of synthetic drugs in the wake of their growing abuse and links to serious health problems.
The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office said it organized inspections at more than 170 businesses around the county, including convenience stores, smoke shops, liquor stores and other retailers.
Investigators said the businesses were reminded of the new law and the penalty for selling or possessing the banned products, which is a 5-year prison sentence and a fine of up to $5,000.
Authorities said the inspections resulted in 15 violations, and the owners were told that it would be their one and only warning. The next time banned products were found in their stores, enforcement action will be taken.
The inspections were a part of an ongoing effort to rid the community of synthetic drugs known as K2, Spice, bath salts and herbal potpourri that have resulted in users ending up in emergency rooms all over the country.
Authorities said the synthetic drugs' consumption has been known to cause hallucinations, seizures, tremors, nausea, panic attacks and even psychotic episodes.
Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson, who organized the inspections, said synthetic drugs are just as dangerous as the real ones, and in some cases even more so.
"These are extremely unsafe substances that are causing a great deal of harm," said Johnson. "I'm very pleased that the state has taken action, and we’re going to use all of our available resources and continue working with local police departments to make sure that the law is vigorously enforced."
Investigators said of the 15 stores that had banned products, seven voluntarily surrendered them to officers. Most of others said they would either destroy the products or return them to their distributor for a refund, while a few clerks said they would need to talk to their bosses first.
"Many users are tricked into thinking that they’re a safer alternative to other illegal drugs," said Johnson. "But using synthetic drugs is like playing Russian roulette. You don’t know if you’re going to end up in the hospital or even the morgue after using this stuff. If our efforts save even one life, the inspections and enforcement initiatives will have been well worth the effort."
The businesses were told that officers would be back to make sure that they follow through and remain in compliance with the law.