Synthetic Drugs Difficult to Regulate

Authorities say manufacturers skirt the law by changing the chemical makeup of the banned drugs and marketing them as legal products.

It still is not known what caused the death of Logan Kushner,  unusually before he was found at Clearwater's Kapok Park early Sunday morning. 

But the tragedy is shedding light on just how difficult it is to regulate and police synthetic drugs.

"Whether it's K2 or Jazz, they're certainly out there; they're commonly available," Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said.

The synthetic drugs are nicknamed "fake pot" and are sold in eye-catching packages marked K2, Jazz and Spice.  They're marketed as legal herbal products and are often sold at head shops, gas stations and convenience stores. Also on the packaging is a marking saying the substance is “not for human consumption.”

"Unfortunately, certain substances are used for human consumption although they are not intended for such purposes, as commonly seen with aerosols," Clearwater police spokeswoman Elizabeth Watts said in a news release.

Last March, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) banned products containing any of five chemicals often used to make fake pot. The state of Florida also implemented its own ban on synthetic drugs.

Those chemicals were found in the herbal incenses Spice and K2, Kushner had smoked. But, even with the bans, manufacturers continue to be one step ahead of the federal law. Gualtieri says manufacturers simply alter the chemical makeup of a banned synthetic drug, creating a new chemical that is not banned.

Jazz is among hundreds of similar herbal incenses still legally sold at area convenience stores in Florida.

He says another reason fake pot is hard to police is that the products are not marketed as marijuana.

"You have products out there that are not marijuana, they don't fall within the counterfeit statute, and they don't fall within the chemical prohibition," Gualtieri said. "We don't have any tests other than to send it to the lab. It's very difficult from an enforcement standpoint to deal with it."

Gualtieri believes the battle against synthetic drugs will require additional legislative action.

In Tallahassee, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is aware of Kushner's death and the synthetic drug problem.

"I am deeply saddened to learn of Logan Kushner's death, and this is exactly why we must do everything in our power to ban all synthetic drugs and protect Floridians," she said in a statement released by her office.

Bondi says she'll be working with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and lawmakers during the upcoming legislative session with the goal of keeping people safe from the dangerous drugs.

Even if the state toughens laws on synthetic drugs, Gualtieri thinks the drug manufacturers need to take some responsibility and stop preying on people.

"Does anybody in the world really think that 16-year-olds and 18-year-olds are walking into a gas station to buy a $6 bag of incense to make their rooms at home smell nicer?" he said.

"These companies are looking to make a buck at the expense of these kids and people who are using the stuff to get high on it."

rick013 February 22, 2012 at 01:20 AM
Sooooooo? Alcohol is leagal riiiiiight? But nobody has ever killed anybody on alcohol nooooooo! I got an idea make it a law for 21 and over to purchase the product. And remember drunk driving is OK! Because you can't kill anyone when you drink and drive riiiiiight??? Its got nothing to do with the kids PERIOD!
jp November 22, 2012 at 11:02 PM
Jonnie Sue Presley January 11, 2013 at 05:48 PM
PAM BONDI SAID " NO" TO MEDICAL MARIJUANA--COULD HAVE HELPED TO SAVE HER FATHER A FEW MORE YEARS--THIS IS HER WAKE UP CALL FLORIDA--MEDICAL MARIJUANA SAVES LIVES--http://blog.norml.org/2012/12/21/florida-attorney-general-just-says-no-to-medical-marijuana/comment-page-2/#comment-180461 "CANNABIS KILLS LEUKEMIA CELLS" Read more here: http://miamiherald.typepad.com/nakedpolitics/2013/01/attorney-general-pam-bondis-father-joseph-bondi-dies.html#storylink=cpy


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