By Patrick McCallister and Michael Salerno
For Hometown News
One-by-one cities in Volusia County are banning the sale of so-called artificial cannabis and bath salts, designer psychoactive substances.
One of the latest is Holly Hill, which began the ordinance process at its Oct. 23 meeting.
Other cities in various stages of enacting ordinances are Daytona Beach, Daytona Beach Shores and South Daytona. Ormond Beach took a different route and passed a resolution urging the Legislature to ban the substances.
"I've seen the effects of it, and it is bad, very bad," Holly Hill Mayor Roy Johnson said at the meeting.
In an interview before the meeting, Holly Hill Police Chief Mark Barker said the substances are constantly evolving to avoid violating federal and state drug laws. Earlier this year, Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation banning 142 chemical designations containing hallucinogenic substances. But as legislators ban chemicals, makers go to work redesigning their products to be legal. The city isn't banning the sale of chemicals in the products - it's forbidding their marketing.
"If a chemical compound is forbidden, a chemist can change the molecular structure to take it outside that status," the chief said. "If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, we don't want it in our community."
The cities' marketing bans can't come fast enough for Robyn Harrington Schmidt, a co-founder of Stand UP, a DeLand support group for families affected by drug addiction and abuse. She said the artificial cannabis, often called K2, and bath salts are gateway drugs, and gateways back to old ones.
"It seems a lot of mothers, fathers and aunts who show up (at Stand UP meetings) thinking their children were doing better, that what they're finding now is they use (artificial cannabis) as a method to try to pass their UA for drug court," she said. "It's a way to get high and fly under the radar with it."
Commissioner Donnie Moore, a firefighter/EMT for Daytona Beach, said banning the products was an easy vote for him.
"I know we're seeing incidents with it," he said in a phone interview after the meeting. "It's become more prevalent in the last year - last year, 18 months. The manufactures are targeting kids with their labeling. I don't see it as a benefit to the community."
Daytona Beach, Daytona Beach Shores and South Daytona leaders recently said "no" to synthetic drugs. Their respective city councils have begun enacting ordinances prohibiting the sale, display and distribution of the drugs, marketed as "herbal incense" and "bath salts."
Officials said the legislation is a way to "fill in holes" in the system before the Legislature takes action on the issue. Ideally, South Daytona City Manager Joseph Yarbrough said, city officials want the sale or display of the synthetic drugs to be a criminal violation.
"The problem is, this ordinance makes it (synthetic drugs) a code violation," Mr. Yarbrough said. "... When it becomes criminal, the police department can come in and arrest you. When it's a code violation, if somebody's selling something they have to be noticed you can't do this, and if they continue to do it then we have to notice them they have so many days to stop it, and then a hearing officer determines if there's a fine there."
South Daytona Mayor George Locke said a PBS program he watched about bath salts was an eye opener to him, because it helped him realize the extent of the issue was far greater than he thought.
"I understood it was bad, you hear a lot of things but you don't realize how bad it is, because this stuff mimics cocaine and a methamphetamine. It's just horrendous," he said. "... I wish there was some way we could get it totally out of the system."
Mary Swiderski, executive director of the Volusia Council of Governments, spoke to Daytona Beach Shores officials at a recent meeting to address concerns about herbal incense and bath salts, which she described as causing "a havoc to our younger generation."
"It has killed many kids," Ms. Swiderski. "It alters the chemistry of their brain so the likelihood of them coming back to the norm are slim. It really surpasses the dangers of what prescription drugs are doing."