As first reported on the Baynews Nine website, it may soon be against the law to sell synthetic marijuana (also known as K2 or "spice") in the St. Petersburg city limits. The Mayor, Bill Foster, wants to move forward on his plan to ban the sales of this so-called drug.
Claiming that it is "frying people's minds" the Mayor also wants the possession of synthetic marijuana to result in a civil infraction or even an arrest. As of this writing, the city council's Public Safety committee has given the Mayor permission to have his city attorneys write up that law.
As previously written about in the Tampa Bay Times, St. Petersburg and in particular Williams Park downtown has seen a large uptick in violence and drug abuse. Williams Park and the surrounding area has been overridden by the homeless population, many of whom smoke spice and panhandle or commit crimes (such as prostitution or robberies) for money. Much of that crime is being blamed on this new drug.
Synthetic marijuana is made of a legal plant, which is dried and ground up. It is then mixed with various chemicals that can produce mind-altering effects. The problem is the chemicals/plants are not regulated and while individually these chemicals are not safe, when they are mixed together, the results can be even more dangerous and unpredictable.
Depending on a person's body chemistry and the spice itself, the drug has been blamed for violent behaviors, hallucinations, vomiting and rapid heart beat. This is ironic as the drug claims to produce a mellow high, much like marijuana.
Saint Petersburg is merely following in the footsteps of a state law, passed in 2012 that actually bans some of the chemicals found in spice. That law has proved mostly ineffective as the manufacturers merely change up some of the chemicals. This keeps them from breaking the law but may result in unknown chemicals in unknown amounts being ingested by the smokers.
Another issue the police are running into involves testing for the drug itself. Most illegal narcotics (such as cocaine or marijuana) can be tested for with results coming in a few minutes. Spice presents a problem as the lab results for the drug sometimes takes several months before it is ready. Worse, as the drug mixture keeps changing, many times the police don't even know what to test for!
Meanwhile these city attorneys are studying similar bans recently enacted in Pasco and Hillsborough county for further guidance.
In Florida, marijuana, like many illegal drugs, falls under Florida statute 893.13. Spice or K2 will most likely not be enforceable under that statute. That is because as mentioned above, the chemicals in spice are being changed often, making the detection of this synthetic marijuana difficult. Any prosecution for spice under 893.13 would likely be overturned as vague. Unlike marijuana or other drugs under that statute, K2 is not readily defined.
It is more likely that a civil infraction/arrest for possession of this drug would not be overturned. If the St. Petersburg city lawyers craft a carefully guided proposal banning the sale of spice this too should pass constitutional muster.
The former prosecutors at Blake & Dorsten, P.A. have handled 100s of drug cases throughout the Gulf coast of Florida including St. Petersburg, St. Pete Beach, Clearwater, Indian Shores, Gulfport, Palm Harbor, Largo, Seminole, Pinellas Park and Reddington Beach.