Days later, Bondi issued an emergency order temporarily outlawing the chemical compound in “bath salts.” In March 2011, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency placed an emergency ban on many synthetic drugs. In 2011 and 2012, Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation adding dozens of synthetic drug compounds to the state’s list of banned substances.
Similar efforts are going on nationwide, and the numbers show reports of incidents involving “bath salts” and synthetic marijuana are decreasing.
The American Association of Poison Control Centers reported 720 calls regarding human exposure to “bath salts” in 2011, compared to 295 in May 2012. Poison centers reported 494 calls regarding synthetic marijuana that month, down from 597 in May 2011.
Meanwhile, law enforcement agencies have raided businesses and prosecuted owners who stock illegal substances.
Monday, the DEA said that Joel Lester, owner of Nature and Health in Boca Raton, pleaded guilty to conspiring to possess with the intent to distribute synthetic marijuana. Lester faces up to 20 years in prison and up to a $1 million fine.
In Miami-Dade County, commissioners are considering a complete ban on the sale or purchase of any products that imitate marijuana. The hope is the law will keep all synthetic marijuana off shelves even if manufacturers develop new chemical configurations.
The city of Sweetwater banned the sale of synthetic marijuana last month, and the city of Sunrise is poised to enact a similar ban.
“Little kids were buying it,” said Sweetwater Police Chief Roberto Fulgueira. “We had to do something.”
Patricia Junquera, assistant professor of psychiatry and the medical director of the detoxification unit at the University of Miami, said that she has seen a large increase of problems with synthetic drugs in the emergency room at Jackson Memorial Hospital.
“We’re seeing this type of behavior more and more,” she said. “And with younger and younger patients.”
In Junquera’s opinion, the effects of synthetic marijuana are worse than those of real marijuana, even though the synthetic substance is legal. Patients come to her hallucinating, breaking things and screaming.
“They become psychotic,” she said. “Some of them have seizures or are paralyzed. That doesn’t happen with normal marijuana.”