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Bath salts shake up: Chemistry class is over, Bondi says

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012 by Dara Kam

“Creative chemists” crafting new concoctions to sidestep state laws banning “bath salts” have unwittingly issued a challenge to Attorney General Pam Bondi, who’s on a crusade again to purge convenience stores of the dangerous drugs.

A little more than a year after Bondi issued an emergency order banning “bath salts” – a dangerous synthetic drug cocktail – kids are still overdosing on the drugs, often sold at convenience stores near high schools, Bondi, flanked by other law enforcement officials, said at a press conference this morning.

Bondi said she predicted the chemists would come up with new combinations to skirt Florida laws banning specific compounds when the legislature outlawed them last year. But she’s not giving up, she said.

“Guys, chemistry class is over and we’re going to enroll you in chemistry class in Florida prison because that’s where you belong,” Bondi said.

Two Panhandle Republicans – Sen. Greg Evers of Baker and Rep. Clay Ingram of Pensacola – have sponsored bills (SB 1502, HB 1175) that would expand the ban on the drugs, sometimes sold as incense under names like “Jazz” or “K2 Spice.” The House bill is headed to the floor this week and the Senate measure has one more committee stop.

More than 1,000 people have been arrested for selling the synthetic drugs since the law went into effect on July 1, Florida Department of Law Enforcement Assistant Secretary Jim Madden said.

Bondi called on parents to educate their kids about how harmful the substances are, which some drug users think are safer than traditional street drugs like cocaine.

But Charlotte County Sheriff Bill Cameron – who said three youths in his region recently overdosed on the drugs – said consumers need to boycott stores that sell the drugs.

“When you patronize these stores, and you see these substances on the shelf, you question the store owner,” Cameron said. “The only reason they are selling it is because they’re making money.”

Drug tests for welfare recipients now the law

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011 by Dara Kam

Welfare recipients, mostly women with children, will now have to be drug-free to receive cash benefits under a bill signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott today.

Under the new law, applicants for the benefits will have to pay for the drug tests but will get reimbursed if they are drug-free. If they’re not, their children will still be able to receive benefits through another family member or someone else designated by their parent.

More than 21,000 Floridians now receiving benefits as heads of households will now have to pay for and undergo the screening.

Scott and state lawmakers contend Florida needs the new law to stop welfare recipients from using the money to buy drugs. Opponents of the measure cite studies have shown that there’s no more widespread drug abuse among welfare recipients than the general public.

“While there are certainly legitimate needs for public assistance, it is unfair for Florida taxpayers to subsidize drug addiction,” Scott said in a press release. “This new law will encourage personal accountability and will help to prevent the misuse of tax dollars.”

The ACLU of Florida blasted the new law.

“The wasteful program created by this law subjects Floridians who are impacted by the economic downturn, as well as their families, to a humiliating search of their urine and body fluids without cause or even suspicion of drug abuse,” said Howard Simon, the civil rights organization’s executive director.

A federal court in 2003 struck down a similar law, finding that it violated Fourth Amendment rights to be free from unreasonable searches.

Scott is also requiring state workers to undergo random drug tests, prompting threats of lawsuits. The ACLU is making an announcement regarding that policy tomorrow morning, indicating a lawsuit is likely.

Perhaps not coincidentally, Scott today also signed into law a bill banning certain bath salts that have resulted in a rash of overdoses in Florida and other states.

Attorney General Pam Bondi in January issued an emergency order criminalizing the sale of “bath salts” made up of the dangerous synthetic drug Methylenedioxypyrovalerone, or MDPV. The drug cocktail apparently gives users super-human strength.

Florida poison control centers have reported 61 calls of “bath salts” abuse, the second-highest volume of calls in the nation, according to Scott’s office.

UPDATE: White House drug czar snubs Florida’s bath salt attack

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011 by Dara Kam

UPDATE: After we posted our blog, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy issued a revised press release including Florida in the states addressing the dangerous bath salts. The drug czar’s staff said the oversight wasn’t intentional – they were simply unaware of Bondi’s efforts.

White House drug czar Gil Kerlikowske issued a bath salt alarm, warning about a dangerous drug combo that’s got poison control centers working overtime.

Kerlikowske issued a statement about the synthetic stimulants, including MDPV, marketed as “bath salts” under names such as “Ivory Wave” or “Purple Wave.”

The drug czar gave a shout-out to states, including Hawaii, Michigan, Louisiana, Kentucky and North Dakota considering legislation to ban the drugs. In his statement, he also pointed out that “several counties, cities, and local municipalities have also taken action to ban these products.”

Maybe he didn’t know, or just forgot to mention, that Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi last week issued an emergency order banning the sale or possession of the drugs. Bondi said she acted quickly after learning about the “bath salts” to prevent a rash of overdoses or other dangerous behavior during the Panhandle’s upcoming Spring Break.

Bondi bans dangerous ‘bath salt’ drug

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Attorney General Pam Bondi has criminalized the sale and possession of a dangerous synthetic drug cocktail being sold as bath salts that apparently gives users super-human strength.

Bondi issued the emergency order making the drug – Methylenedioxypyrovalerone or MDPV – illegal in time for spring break in the Panhandle, where law enforcement officials say they’ve seen a rash of overdoses caused by the drug.

The drug allegedly makes “you think you are seeing monsters and makes you think you can fly,” Bondi told reporters this afternoon.

“There are a lot of balconies out there,” she said.

The drugs, sold under the name Vanilla Sky, Ivory Wave, Ocean Burst and Bolivian Bath, are sold at convenience stores, head shops and other retail outlets in malls, Bondi said, for $30 and up.

The substance is usually snorted and sometimes injected, Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen, who brought the drug to Bondi’s attention last week, said.

McKeithen said it 11 law enforcement officials were unable to control a man high on the drug who “tore the radar unit out of the vehicle with his teeth.” In another incident, a young woman tried to behead her mother with a machete because she believed she was a monster, McKeithen said.

Bondi’s emergency order will last 90 days, giving lawmakers time to outlaw the bath salts during the legislative session that begins March 8.

Bondi said she received a letter from McKeithen Friday and issued the order today.

“I frankly had a nightmare last night that someone was going to overdose on this and we hadn’t done anything,” she said.

Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, stood beside Bondi at the press conference late this afternoon, said that lawmakers would “act quickly” to permanently ban the substance.

He praised Bondi for her quick action. “This is what leadership is all about.”

In Louisiana, Gov. Bobby Jindal outlawed the bath salts by an emergency order after the state’s poison center received more than 125 calls in the last three months of 2010.

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