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Pasco Prepares to Enforce Anti-Spice Ordinance

Store owners will be fined up to $500 per item for failing to follow a new county law.

Vickie Davis was at Georgia’s Smoke Shop in Port Richey on Wednesday when Pasco County Sheriff’s deputies came to visit the store with a warning.

Deputies are preparing to start enforcing a recently passed county ordinance that aims to fight synthetic drug use and penalizes shopkeepers that sell synthetic drug products. Davis, who says she’s the owner of the shop, was given a letter Wednesday telling her this and explaining the ordinance.  

Lt. Chuck Balderstone, who leads the agency’s vice and narcotics unit, says Georgia’s is a shop that visibly displays synthetic marijuana for sale.

Sgt. William Davis told the shop owner and a shop full of journalists that she had completed sales to minors.

“Take that ordinance seriously,” he said.

Law enforcement officers went to convenience stores throughout the county with letters in hand Wednesday and told shopkeepers that deputies and municipal police departments are going to be enforcing the new county ordinance.  Temporary amnesty was given Wednesday, but enforcement will begin in the coming days.

Synthetic drugs are a concern in Pasco County and among state officials.

Sheriff Chris Nocco said at a press conference that law enforcement officials want to send a very clear message.

“We’re not going to be afraid to enforce the law and protect the families of Pasco County,” he said.  

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Pasco County commissioners passed the ordinance Nov. 7 that prohibits possession, sale provision or distribution of synthetic drugs. Two substances targeted by the ordinance are synthetic marijuana, also known as Spice, K2, and a plethora of other names; and bath salts, which are designed to mimic cocaine.

Under the new ordinance, it is illegal to provide or sell a product for human consumption when the product is labeled "not for human consumption."

The county ordinance also goes after drug paraphernalia, like bongs and pipes. The new county ordinance says   must segregate drug paraphernalia to a separate room with a closed door or ban minors from entering the store without an adult if the items are displayed openly.

Owners will have to prohibit people younger than 18 from entering the store alone under the county ordinance.

Davis and other business owners also received a sign reading, “Drug paraphernalia located inside. No person under 18 years of age may enter unless accompanied by his/her parent or legal guardian.”

“I’m not going to jail for nothing or nobody,” she said as she attached the sign outside a window.

She said she has owned the store, located in a small shopping plaza on U.S. 19, for eight years. She said the ordinance is going to “hurt my revenue a lot.” She won’t miss the products banned under the ordinance, “but I’ll miss the revenue.”  

The ordinance fines store owners $500 per item found in violation of the county ordinance.

“It’s definitely in their best interests to comply with us,” Balderstone said.   

The fight to curb synthetic drug use can get complicated. When chemicals or products are made illegal, manufacturers have switched to using legal chemicals to make the drugs. Balderstone said some businesses have transitioned from selling synthetic drugs on shelves to hiding them behind the counter.

Florida officials have passed laws making some synthetic drugs illegal. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi on Tuesday filed an emergency rule outlawing 22 new synthetic drugs.

The letter sent to shop owners reads the newly banned chemicals “are contained in virtually all of the products that the PSO has observed being sold in businesses throughout Pasco County and being marketed as ‘Legal in Florida.”

What do you think about the ordinance? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

Joe Aviles December 14, 2012 at 09:52 PM
Florida is backwards. While other states are legalizing Marijuana to keep people out of jail, for such a minor thing. the good o' boys in Florida are at it again. When is Florida going to stop making these goofy laws. They have stupid voter repressing laws and many others( too many to mention).
pam December 15, 2012 at 01:15 AM
Don't say the good o' boys in FL are at it again - I do not smoke marijuana but it is natural and would like to see it legalized by the Federal Government! Even in states that it is legal the Feds can come in and make Fed arrests for marijuana. The stuff they are trying to stop is CHEMICALS - not natural. Chemicals are bad!
Greg Lightning December 15, 2012 at 11:03 AM
What I fail to understand is we allow alcohol & cigarettes to be legal in this country...Both major killers in their own right but yet we outlaw marijuana which creates a semi black market for this fake weed called "Spice" now under the scrutiny of the law...I'm not a drug user but I see no harm in people smoking real weed on their days off if they are lucky enough to have a job these days and as long as it doesn't endanger anyone or exposing minors to it...Let em have the real stuff..make it priced competitively to "Spice" ,tax it like cigarettes , make some money..Then the "Spice" will go away all on its own as it will have lost any real value when a consumer can buy the real thing for nearly same money...I've yet to see any death stats attributed to smoking weed unlike alcohol or cigarettes...Most people get munchies or go to sleep anyway. Law makers need to wake up..Im convinced they need to smoke some and get a different perspective on life..Can we send some festive brownies to all the government officials for Christmas ? Everybody loves brownies...Right? (Smiling)

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