County adopts 'designer' drug ordinance

Ben Hueso

SAN DIEGO -- In an effort to stop the sale of mind-altering chemicals marketed as bath salts or herbal incense, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors Tuesday tentatively approved an ordinance declaring them a public nuisance and making stores that sell them in unincorporated areas subject to civil abatement actions.

The board also voted 5-0 to support of legislation aimed at outlawing the products.

"Combining these two measures will put San Diego County at the forefront of the efforts to combat what is a growing and dangerous problem facing our society,'' County Supervisor Greg Cox said.

Some bath salts contain amphetamine-like chemicals.

"Unfortunately a lot of these have been marketed in the grocery stores and the supermarkets and neighborhood markets," said Cox. 

Man-made cannabinoids -- the class of psychoactive compounds in marijuana -- are used in products sold as K2, spice, or herbal incense and typically sold online, in liquor stores or smoke shops.

"We have seen an increase in the use among our children. It's being marketed to them in a way that they don't quite understand and the types of behavior we see are violent. They are psychotic and they are something that none of these teenagers really can anticipate,'' said District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis.

The ordinance, to be voted on April 3, would declare it a public nuisance for anyone to distribute or sell the products. It would also make it a public nuisance to possess the products when it injuriously affects the heath, safety, welfare or comfortable enjoyment of life or property of someone other than the person in possession.

Cox said the ordinance would give the county "another weapon to quickly shut down anyone who tries to provide or sell these drugs.''

He said the Neighborhood Market Association has been very responsive in working with their store owners to remove synthetic drugs from store shelves.

The board also agreed to support Assembly Bill 2420 by Assemblyman Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, who wants to outlaw the stuff.

Hueso's legislation would make it illegal to have synthetic or designer drugs.

"My bill this year outlaws the possession of synthetic or designer drugs," said Hueso.  "Imagine if you're driving down the street and have a truck load of these drugs, currently it is not illegal to do that.

In January, California lawmakers made it illegal to sell the drugs.  Cox said Hueso's bill would close an existing loophole.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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