Battle to outlaw synthetic drugs in Tampa not getting any easier

12/20/12 Janelle Irwin
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Tampa might piggy back on a synthetic drug ordinance being considered by Hillsborough County in February. Tampa City Council members have been grappling with how to get the substances like bath salts and K2 off shelves and they may have to get creative to do it.

Synthetic marijuana called K2 and the designer stimulant widely known as bath salts are already illegal. At least the chemicals in them are. But they are packaged in a way that makes enforcing sales nearly impossible. Hillsborough County Commissioners will vote on a first draft ordinance that is expected to include regulation on packaging and how the products can be sold. Tampa city attorney Julia Cole said the regulations will act as a deterrent to both buyers and sellers.

“Having requirements that if you are going to sell something that has a package that looks like it could be a synthetic drug that there may be some kind of requirement – you sign a document, you give your drivers license. We’re looking at a lot of different options right now and at this point, not only has Hillsborough County been looking at this issue as well as the city of Tampa has been looking at this issue, but jurisdictions all over the state [have] been continuously looking at this issue.”

Earlier this year, Attorney General Pam Bondi added 50 chemicals to a list of prohibited substances and just issued an emergency rule on another 22.

“The problem is the chemical compositions change. It’s not like they’re clearly labeled to say, ‘here, we contain these substances.’ So, we were looking at additional resources of how we could further ban it either from display or other types of enforcement mechanisms against businesses who display materials which could possibly be construed as these types of substances.”

Other suggestions on enforceability included putting the products behind lock and key and establishing a minimum age for sales. Tampa City Council members will look into a possible city wide ordinance on February 21st after the Hillsborough County Commission completes and votes on their first draft.

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