Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office deputies passed out letters last month instructing store owners and managers to pull off their shelves synthetic drugs such as K2 or Spice that mimic the effects of marijuana or face fines.

In late March, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed an amendment that added 29 new chemical compounds to the list of prohibited, controlled substances and established new law, which made the formerly legal herbal incense or synthetic cannabinoid known as K2, or Spice, illegal to sell at local stores.

K2, which users say when smoked, mimics the effects of marijuana, has been sold at many local businesses, including gas stations and convenience stores, packaged in colorful plastic bags. Often found at the checkout counter available for purchase as easy as a pack of chewing gum.

With Scott’s signature, however, the sale of such synthetic drugs is now a crime.

“K2, or Spice, has been highly marketed and often packaged to appeal to young people, even though  they are several times more potent than THC, the active ingredient in marijuana,” said Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) spokesperson Larry McKinnon.

According to recent reports in the media, concern has been growing for some time over the adverse health effects associated with K2, or Spice.

As surge in emergency room visits and calls to poison control centers became evident as seizures, hallucinations, paranoid behavior, agitation, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, racing heartbeat and elevated blood pressure, not to mention the recent drowning of a Clearwater teen, which has been associated with the use of  K2.

With the change in the law, the possession of three grams or less of synthetic cannabinoids will be a first degree misdemeanor—unless the synthetic cannabinoid is in powdered form Scott’s signature also makes the sale, manufacturing or delivery or possession with intent to sell, manufacture or deliver synthetic cannabinoid and bath salt substances a third degree felony, punishable by up to five years imprisonment and a $5,000 fine.

Of course, the battle to bring such substance abuses to a halt takes more than just a signature.

McKinnon explained that new formulas of synthetic cannabinoids that are made up of chemicals not covered by current law are constantly being developed.

“We plead to the sense of morality,” McKinnon said.

 According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, more than 90 chemicals related to synthetic cannabinoids and bath salts have been discovered that have no accepted medical use, a legitimate industrial or commercial purpose.

To make sure that local store owners and managers were up to par with the new law, HCSO deputies were sent out with letters in hand warning businesses not to sell the product or face fines.

In the letter, HCSO Colonel Donna Lusczynski emphasized that store owners in possession of any of the now illegal substances or their analogs can inform the department by providing an inventory, which will then be seized as contraband, however this voluntary approach will not continue for long.

“Once the Statute is executed we will investigate the possession, sale and transfer of all these controlled substances,” she said, adding that evidence of violation of the new law “will result in appropriate law enforcement action, referring any charges to the Office of State Attorney for prosecution.”

For more information, please visit www.fdle.state.fl.us.

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