Supervisors Pass Synthetic Drug Law


By Staff Reports

(Victor Valley)– San Bernardino County became only the second county in California Tuesday to adopt an ordinance that closes loopholes on synthetic drugs known as “bath salts” or “spice.”

“The Board of Supervisors recognizes the physical and mental dangers of these drugs,” said 1st District Supervisor Robert A. Lovingood. “This is another proactive step to limit the availability of synthetic drugs in the county.”

The Board of Supervisors approved the ordinance 5-0, making it a misdemeanor to provide, distribute or sell synthetic stimulants and/or synthetic cannabinoids. This gives the County the ability to pursue criminal charges against anyone who distributes these products or to use civil processes to abate the nuisance.

In speaking on behalf of the ordinance, Sheriff John McMahon said that manufacturers of synthetic drugs frequently change the chemical makeup to avoid prosecution under the California Penal Code. But this new ordinance, which takes effect in unincorporated areas, will close those loopholes. McMahon said the Sheriff’s Department has conducted sweeps and education efforts to let stores know the products are illegal.

Several members of the public spoke in support of the measure, including Bill Hannon of the Spring Valley Lake Lions Club, DeeDe Crigler of the Barstow Area Chamber of Commerce and Cindi Burklow, executive director of the High Desert Child, Adolescent and Family Services Center. Karrel Collins from Fort Irwin’s substance abuse program cited a University of Washington study that found synthetic drugs have become the drug of choice among active duty personnel because they are difficult to detect.

Persons found in violation of this ordinance would be guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine not to exceed $1,000 and/or imprisonment for a term not to exceed six months. This ordinance also would make it a public nuisance for any person to provide, distribute, or sell any synthetic drug, or any substance claimed or represented to be a synthetic drug. Furthermore, it would be a public nuisance for any person to allow these activities to occur on property owned, controlled or managed by that person.

Recreational use of psychoactive bath salts, psychoactive herbal essence and similar products, commonly known as “synthetic drugs,” have been documented to cause hallucinations, agitation, psychosis, aggression, suicidal and homicidal ideations, cannibalism and death. These extremely dangerous drugs are gaining popularity at an alarming rate among high school and college-age individuals, as well as among parolees and probationers. These drugs are available in stores throughout the County and are typically sold in liquor stores, smoke shops and gas stations.

It is anticipated that additional state laws will be enacted criminalizing the possession of synthetic drugs for personal use.

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