Since local and statewide bans of synthetic drug sales in Florida have taken effect, the products are no longer easy to find in gas stations and convenience stores, according to an expert who tracks emerging psychoactive drugs. Calls to poison control centers have dropped, and fewer people are being rushed to the emergency room with side effects from the drugs.
Cities and counties throughout South Florida passed bans on synthetic drugs last year. In December 2012, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi signed an emergency rule that outlawed 22 new synthetic drugs throughout the state. In 2011, the state legislature banned a number of synthetic drugs. Last year, the legislature banned additional versions of the drugs.
“I think we can claim some major successes,” says Jim Hall, a researcher at Nova Southeastern University, told The Huffington Post. “Not victory. But successes. The local retail bans did have an effect. It didn’t solve the problem. But it did win a few battles.”
Synthetic marijuana and bath salts can still be purchased online. Some stores are keeping the products hidden, and sell them only to regular customers, according to Lauderhill Police Chief Andrew Smalling. “We’re still finding people are able to access it,” he said. “It’s definitely gone underground.”
“The bans are working,” said David Gross, special agent supervisor with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. “They’re not nearly as prevalent and on display. The genie is out of the bottle and they know they need to conceal it or they are going to pop up on law enforcement’s radar.”