Our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers have been watching closely as Florida has been at the forefront of the movement to outlaw synthetic marijuana and so-called “bath salts.”
Despite bans by the federal government, Florida, Broward County and the city of Fort Lauderdale, the drugs remain prevalent due to imports from overseas and the ability of chemists to tweak the ingredients just enough to skirt these laws. It’s this element that can also be critical in terms to a defendant’s criminal defense.
While we certainly don’t encourage anyone to use or sell these substances, particularly given the level of uncertainty that can accompany a drug that hasn’t been thoroughly tested, we will encourage those who have been arrested in South Florida for possession or sale to contact a lawyer immediately.
To give you an idea of the scope of the issue, the American Association of Poison Control Centers reported in 2010 receiving few more than 300 calls relating to synthetic marijuana. The following year, the agency reported there were more than 6,100 calls regarding these synthetics.
Since a number of laws have been enacted in an effort to curb the availability of these drugs, those calls have fallen to 2,500 calls (as of Oct. 31 of this year). So, while it has fallen off dramatically, that’s still a pretty significant number.
Regardless of the name, “bath salts” is a broad term for what is actually synthetic cathinones, which is a substance found in a native east African and Middle Eastern plant that has been barred in the U.S. for many years. Although they are sometimes referred to as synthetic marijuana, they are actually closer to amphetamines in their actual effect.
They are in the same class of drugs as ecstasy – which is part of the problem. They mimic ecstasy and cocaine. By contrast, bath salts are cheap and fairly easy to acquire, despite the bans.
In March, Gov. Rick Scott signed off on House Bill 1175, which replaced Senate Bill 1502 and adds 92 different variations of synthetic marijuana and bath salts (or “spice”) to the list of drugs that are illegal in Florida.
Then in July, President Barack Obama signed a federal ban on the substances, and the Drug Enforcement Administration subsequently arrested nearly 100 suspected suppliers and distributors throughout the country. “Operation Log Jam” resulted in the seizure of 5 million packets, materials needed to make nearly 15 million more and $36 million.
Even just simple possession of the substance under 3 grams is considered a high-level misdemeanor.
Then in August, Fort Lauderdale banned the substances as well, requiring that any such product sold in the city has to have a detailed health warning and a clear, accurate list of all ingredients so officers are able to verify whether it contains any substances that are prohibited. Those who violate the city law face up to two months in jail, a $500 fine plus a requirement to cover the city’s investigative cost – including for lab tests, which could get quite pricey.
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.
Bath Salts Remain Evident Amid Federal Crackdowns, Nov. 19, 2012, By Ernest Duffoo, Knight News
More Blog Entries:
U.S. v. Murray, et al – Courts Can’t Re-Open Case For Additional Punishments, Dec. 5, 2012, Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog