Synthetic marijuana is on the radar screen for numerous cities and counties located in the South Florida area. Marijuana grow houses have become big business in Miami and across South Florida. Local police departments and federal agencies have spent the last four or so years attempting to shut down grow house operations. The legislature created new laws regarding grow houses and added a three-year minimum mandatory sentence to the mix. The large number of grow house cases have kept criminal lawyers in Miami-Dade County busy defending their clients, but a new crime for the possession or manufacture of synthetic marijuana may soon be promulgated by the Florida legislature.
Law enforcement has seen an increase in the popularity of synthetic marijuana. Since there are no laws prohibited the new substance, local municipalities have begun to pass local ordinances banning it. Sweetwater in Miami-Dade County has already passed such an ordinance with the City of Sunrise located in Broward County soon to follow. Other jurisdictions drafting ordinances include Miami-Dade County, Broward County and the cities if Coral Springs, Deerfield Beach, Hallandale Beach, Pembroke Pines, Miami Gardens and Pompano Beach. The synthetic marijuana comes in candy-like packaging and is sold in gas stations and convenience stores. The fake marijuana is commonly referred to on the street as "Spice" or "K2" has been deemed to have serious side effects such as a rapid heart rate, anxiety, nausea, seizures, hallucinations, renal failure and in some cases death.
Recently, a West Palm Beach warehouse being used to manufacture the synthetic marijuana exploded causing damage to the warehouse and nearby businesses. Very few manufacturing facilities have been discovered, but the local governments are aware that they exist. Sunrise has not uncovered any such facilities, but the police have been proactive in informing local businesses of the ban. Many stores have begun to pull the items from the shelves. Many complaints have been filed with parents claiming their children are hooked on the new drug. According to the complaints, the synthetic drug has caused serious automobile accidents and violent episodes. The high associated with the fake pot is alleged to be similar to that of crack cocaine.
Those who manufacture the substance have avoided state and federal prosecution by constantly changing the chemical make-up and by labeling the packaged product as herbal incense that is not to be used for oral consumption. Nine states have attempted to ban the substance by outlawing the chemicals. Florida law currently outlaws herbal incense, but only if the label reads for human consumption. Lawmakers around the country are becoming aware of the problem and may be soon to act. Poison control centers have received thousands of calls since 2010 regarding problems after people ingested the substance. If the problem continues, look for the Florida legislation to act to ban these substances. The situation is somewhat similar to the problems that arose when MDMA or "ecstacy" was introduced in the early 1990's.
Synthetic Marijuana: South Florida Cities and Counties Cracking Down on Fake Pot, WPTV.com, May 28, 2012.