Fort Lauderdale Criminalizes Sale of Bath Salts, Fake Pot

Fort Lauderdale has now joined a growing number of Florida cities that have worked to ban synthetic marijuana, bath salts and other similar substances from being sold, possessed or consumed. cocainestrips.jpg

Broward criminal defense lawyers understand that similar bans exist in Miami-Dade, Sweetwater and Sunrise. Additionally, the governor last year issued a statewide ban on bath salts, but the issue is that many companies have ever-so-slightly altered the chemical make-up of their products, allowing them to technically skirt the law.

The new measure passed in Fort Lauderdale encompasses products commonly referred to on the street as “Spice,” or “Vanilla Sky” or “Purple Wave.” Although the packets, which are often sold in drug stores, specifically indicate they are not for human consumption, ingestion is typically the main purpose of buyers. They are smoked, inhaled and sometimes snorted.

The local ordinance prohibits the sale, delivery or possession of “herbal incense, synthetic marijuana or bath salt product” which may contain either illegal compounds or may mimic the effects of those compounds.

Typically, the packets don’t contain any sort of ingredient label, but under the new measure, all products have to have the ingredients listed on the label. Typically, bath salts are a cocktail of chemicals such as mephedrone, pyrovalerone and methylenedioxypryovarelone (MDPV for short). Requiring the products to list their ingredients, officials say, will allow officers to easily check for possible substances that are prohibited.

Anyone who violates the new rule could face a fine of up to $500 and up to 2 months in jail. They would also have to pay for the city’s lab testing, investigation and prosecution costs.

It’s a tricky area when you have a substance that may be legal in one municipality, but not others nearby. What is legally sold and possessed a block over suddenly becomes illegal when you cross the street.

Synthetic drugs are at the center of a case involving an Oakland Park man, who is on probation for possessing a sleeping pill without a prescription. He is reportedly facing a five-year prison term for violating the terms of his probation after he was found to have tested positive for consumption of synthetic marijuana.

But here’s the issue: the compound he purchased was legal both when he purchased it and when he allegedly used it. Despite a current state and now local ban, the question is whether the state can retroactively hold someone responsible for something that was legal at the time. The answer is likely no, though prosecutors have yet to drop the charges.

The man had told a reporter that because he had purchased the drug at a local gas station, he didn’t believe he was doing anything wrong. And he’s likely right.

In a related case, the distributor of a synthetic marijuana product called, “Mr. Nice Guy” has pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute. He is working to get a lesser sentence by cooperating with authorities in reportedly leading them to individuals who reportedly manufacture the substance locally. His information has led to three other recent arrests. Prosecutors say they will likely ask him to testify against the others, though he could still receive as much as 10 months behind bars.

If you are charged with a crime in Palm Beach or Broward counties, contact the Law Offices of Leifert & Leifert, a Partnership of Former Prosecutors, for a free consultation to discuss your rights. Call 1.888.5.DEFEND.

Additional Resources:
Synthetic marijuana trips up man on probation, By Susannah Bryan, Sun Sentinel

Fort Lauderdale joins cities banning synthetic marijuana, bath salts, By Larry Barszewski, Sun Sentinel

More Blog Entries:
New Public Defender Fees Could Impact Quality of Criminal Defense in Broward, July 12, 2012, Broward Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog

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