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Tarpon moves toward crackdown on synthetic drugs

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Published:   |   Updated: January 10, 2014 at 10:12 AM

TARPON SPRINGS — Synthetic drugs are being made, sold and used in Tarpon Springs, and the police department wants to see that come to a stop.

Chief Robert Kochen and Capt. Barbara Templeton were scheduled to address the City Commission for a second time in as many meetings to recommend the passage of an ordinance combating this “epidemic.”

“You know where we stand on this ordinance,” Kochen said during the measure's first reading last month. “I think it's badly needed and this is a pretty serious epidemic. If we don't address it people are going to get hurt and/or die.”

The police department proposal will attempt to allow officers to crack down on the synthetic drugs' introduction, sale or use in Tarpon Springs. According to the ordinance, the drugs, sometimes called “Spice” or “K2,” are designed to mimic the effects of illegal narcotics. They are mixtures of herbs and spices that are typically sprayed with a synthetic compound chemically similar to THC, the psychoactive ingredients in marijuana.

Commissioners voted unanimously last month to move the ordinance to a second reading and the expected passage will follow the lead of other regulations passed throughout Pinellas County.

While the state has banned numerous types of synthetic drugs in recent years, including a list of 27 substances last spring, Templeton said action at the city level will help law enforcement keep up with the makers of the drugs.

“We believe that an ordinance is much more efficient in enforcement than waiting for the state law to change and keep up with the constant chemical changes they're making to stay one step ahead of the law.”

Citing police department research included in Tuesday's ordinance from the American Association of Poison Control Centers, reports of exposure to synthetic marijuana or bath salts spiked dramatically in 2010 and 2011. The AAPCC received 6,959 calls in relation to synthetic marijuana and 6,138 relating to bath salts.

Similar data from this past year and 2012 show usage or abuse beginning to decline, potentially because of the enactment of the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act of 2012.

Kochen and Templeton believe passage of the law at the local level will help keep the trend going in that direction.

“If you decide to approve [this ordinance] the police department will make a pledge to use the new tool you've given us wisely and effectively to stay one step ahead of, to hinder, to prevent and to penalize the greedy individuals and organizations who for the sake of profit … prey upon the vulnerable youth and young adults who are the future of our community,” Templeton said.

ehorchy@suncoastnews.com

(727) 815-1071

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