Pubdate: Sun, 19 Aug 2012
Source: Daytona Beach News-Journal (FL)
Copyright: 2012 News-Journal Corporation
Note: gives priority to local writers
Author: Frank Fernandez


PALM COAST -- Palm Coast officials are working on an ordinance to ban 
the sale of "herbal incense" by targeting its effect rather than the 
ever-changing chemical brew chemists cook up to stay ahead of the law 
when producing synthetic marijuana.

The draft ordinance would ban products that mimic the effects of a 
controlled substance that could be easily placed into pipes, 
cigarette papers and other paraphernalia for smoking or inhaling.

The makers of synthetic marijuana have been able to continue selling 
it as herbal incense because state laws target chemical compounds. 
Chemists spray chemicals similar to the THC in marijuana onto blends 
of leaves and roots, which are then sold as herbal incense. Chemists 
merely alter the compounds enough to escape the law.

"From what I understand, the results, the effects, the pharmacology 
is unpredictable so in that respect it's more dangerous than 
marijuana," said Mayor Jon Netts.

He said city officials plan to provide a draft of Palm Coast's 
ordinance to other cities and the county.

"What I don't want to happen is I don't want to simply move the 
problem from Palm Coast to Bunnell and from Palm Coast to Flagler 
Beach," Netts said. "I think we all need to be on the same page."

The use of synthetic marijuana is rising in both Volusia and Flagler 
Counties, said Patrick Miley, vice president of outpatient services 
for Stewart-Marchman Act.

"We are seeing more and more of it," Miley said. "We are even getting 
to the point that they need residential treatment.

Some people are using it while in treatment as an alternative to 
marijuana, because the synthetic version was harder to detect, Miley 
said. But some tests have been developed now so it's not easy to 
avoid detection, he said.

More young people ages 12 to 17 are using synthetic marijuana, said 
Jennifer Stephenson, senior director of substance abuse outpatient 
programs at Stewart-Marchman-Act Behavior Healthcare.

"We've seen it grow tremendously in the reported use from our 
adolescent population," Stephenson said.

It appears that the synthetic marijuana is getting stronger because 
there have been more reports of stomach upsets, heart palpitations 
and seizures, Stephenson said.

"We are seeing some increased agitation and aggressiveness and 
primarily hallucinations and some general feelings of altered states, 
not being present within themselves," Stephenson said about the effects.

Palm Coast City Manager Jim Landon said recently that the proposed 
ordinance would probably be presented to the City Council in September.

"I think the Sheriff's Office and the city are going to work together 
on presenting a proposal to the City Council to, if not eliminate, at 
least discourage the sale of these dangerous items in our local 
stores," Landon said.

Palm Coast's ordinance is modeled after some enacted in Broward 
County and one of its cities, Lauderhill, said Palm Coast City 
Attorney William Reischmann.

Claudette Jacques, a Palm Coast resident and former child protective 
services worker who has sent emails to the city urging a ban on 
synthetic marijuana, said it's a big problem in Palm Coast.

"I'm really very, very pleased that the city stepped up to the plate 
and decided that this was an issue that needed to be addressed," she said.

Jacques added that over the past year she has become aware of many 
young people addicted to synthetic marijuana.

Jacques said she is not condoning the use of marijuana but she 
believes synthetic marijuana is more dangerous because of the 
chemical concoctions used to make the knockoffs.

"They are so much more poisonous and more dangerous, physically and 
mentally," Jacques said.

Synthetic marijuana can make youths violent, defiant, destructive and 
ill, Jacques said. It can lead to them dropping out of school and 
committing crimes, Jacques said.

"Synthetic drugs affect all walks of life," she said. "It's 
destroying lives and it's destroying families."

She said while minors cannot buy cigarettes there is no law to stop 
them from buying synthetic marijuana sold as herbal incense.

Because the packaging states that the product is not for human 
consumption, even though that's what it is being purchased for, there 
is no age restriction on buyers, Flagler County Sheriff's Office Cpl. 
Jason Neat, supervisor of the Narcotics Enforcement Team, said 
through spokeswoman Debra Johnson. That means minors can purchase the 
products, he said.

Herbal incense is also available through the Internet, Neat said.

The Sheriff's Office has not made any recent arrests because a deputy 
would have to see someone smoking the herbal incense, similar to 
seeing someone huffing from a paint can, Neat said.

Jacques said she has been an advocate for children all her life. She 
has four kids of her own ranging in age from 18 to 29. She said she 
worked for child protective services in New York and is now a special 
education teacher at Wadsworth Elementary School.

"If children are being exploited, if young people are being 
exploited, we cannot sit back and let it happen," Jacques said. "We 
need to do something. People are getting wealthy at the expense of 
our children's health and well being. "

The draft ordinance the city is considering is modeled after 
ordinances enacted in southeast Florida, said city attorney William Reischmann.

"It's a new problem so it's a new solution," Reischmann said in a 
phone interview n Monday. "Like anything else there's bound to be 
issues that are going to come up that local governments are going to 
have to deal with as they arise."

Like pill mills and internet cafes, it's local government trying to 
tackle a big problem, he said.

"You are not having this type of product being sold just in Palm 
Coast, just in Flagler County, just in the state of Florida," 
Reischmann said. "This is a product that's being marketed and sold 
throughout the United States."
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