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Pinellas Sheriff Announces Crackdown on Synthetic Marijuana

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri announced a plan to aggressively enforce Florida's newly expanded ban on many of the chemicals found in "synthetic marijuana." He acknowledged, however, the difficulty in fighting the drugs because manufacturers frequently tweak their formulas to stay ahead of the law. When one chemical is outlawed, it's replaced with another.

The new state law took effect on July 1st. The sheriff indicated the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office will begin notifying store owners and managers about the ban, which makes it a third-degree felony to sell more than 90 chemicals that have been used in synthetic pot. The drug is also commonly referred to as "incense" and "potpourri," and has gone under the brand names K2 and Spice. Under the new law, synthetic substances commonly known as bath salts are also outlawed.

In the field, police officers currently have no rapid-testing kits to test substances, as they do for such drugs as marijuana and crack cocaine. With synthetic drugs, each sample is mailed to a narcotics lab to determine whether it contains an outlawed ingredient.

The new law follows several highly-publicized tragedies involving synthetic pot which many claim can cause a powerful high accompanied by vomiting, panic attacks and hallucinations.

Anyone charged with crimes involving any of these synthetic drugs face either a first-degree misdemeanor, third-degree felony or second-degree felony, depending on the exact crime. If charged with possession of certain synthetic cannabinoids, an individual could be convicted of a misdemeanor of the first degree, facing a jail sentence up to one year and/or a fine up to $1,000.

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