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Sarasota County moves closer to banning designer drugs

5:55 AM, Dec 12, 2013   |    comments
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Sarasota, Florida -- Sarasota County is one step close to banning the use and sale of "fake weed" or "synthetic marijuana" with familiar names including spice and K2. And now there is a new "herbal" drug called Kratom which experts say can be more powerful.

A man needing medical attention became so violent it took five Sarasota firefighters to restrain him. He's one of three men and one woman treated at Five Points Park in downtown Sarasota in October after smoking spice laced with formaldehyde.

Ten days later, a Sarasota Sheriff's deputy shoots at 23-year-old Kimberly Tomchinsky after she tried to run over the deputy with her car while reportedly high on K2.

The next day, 25-year-old Christopher Rounds was arrested for aggravated child abuse after a six-month-old baby girl in his care was taken to the hospital with cuts and drenched with Windex. Deputies say he too was high on synthetic marijuana.

Mel Thomas with Sarasota County's Healthy and Human Services Department says the American Association of Poison Control Center is calling synthetic drug use a risk to public health and hazard to public safety.

Thomas presented the report on the dangers of designer drugs to Sarasota County Commissioners.

Sarasota County Commissioners are moving closer to banning the sale and use of designer drugs especially after learning use among local teens is up.

According to the Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey, 21.7% of high school students in Sarasota have used synthetic marijuana, compared to 13% of high school students statewide.

The proposed ban focuses on the drugs' chemical make-up, distribution and manufacturing.

"It's broad-based and strict," says Sarasota Sheriff Tom Knight.

The Sheriff says the proposed ban leaves no room for interpretation.

Sarasota's proposed ban also includes a new drug called Kratom an herbal plant from Southeast Asia used as a narcotic. Thomas says Kratom has the same effects as opiates, heroin and cocaine.

"We don't know what amount is safe to take or how safe can it be anyway," says Thomas.

Health experts say some users enhance Kratom's natural effects making it more dangerous.

Sarasota County Commissioners have set the first of two public hearing for Feb. 12 to be followed by a vote. If passed, the ban is a second degree misdemeanor and carries a fine of $250 per packet each packet retails between $20 and $40. Thomas says business owners could also lose their license.

Isabel Mascarenas

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