Two North County cities are assessing how they’re enforcing bans on synthetic drugs known popularly as “spice” or bath salts.
In Paso Robles, police carried out an undercover compliance check Friday of local businesses to ensure none were selling the substances.
Officers found that businesses that previously sold the products — banned for sale within the city in January — no longer offered them and even told undercover officers of the ordinance prohibiting sales within the city, the Police Department said Monday.
In January, the City Council adopted an ordinance banning the substances, sometimes called salvia or K-12, which are marketed as incense and other non-ingestible goods but known as an increasingly popular alternative to illegal recreational marijuana.
However, the manmade materials have been found to be dangerous and their effects highly unpredictable. Because they are labeled as not for human consumption, the manufacturing of spice and bath salts is not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Health and law enforcement agencies across the nation report side effects including elevated body temperature, blood pressure and heart rate, hallucinations, psychosis, vomiting and dehydration.
On Tuesday, the Atascadero City Council will hear a six-month update from its Police Department about local incidents involving synthetic psychoactive drugs since the council adopted an ordinance similar to Paso Robles’ in August 2014.
A city staff report says that prior to the ordinance, police officers were seeing an increase in over-intoxication by people using the substances.
“The abuses of spice and bath salts have been responsible for a myriad of overdose-type reactions in people nationwide,” the report reads. “Atascadero police officers were regularly contacting individuals in possession of spice and/or bath salts who were intoxicated to the point that they were unable to care for their own safety. In some cases the subjects appeared nearly catatonic.”
The department has compiled statistical enforcement data related to those substances since their prohibition in the city and will present it to the council Tuesday.
That data was not available Monday.
Last month, the Morro Bay City Council also passed an ordinance banning similar synthetic drugs. That vote followed an Oct. 25 crash on Highway 1 near Cayucos that killed two people and injured two others, each with ties to Morro Bay and Los Osos.
Prosecutors allege the driver, who has been charged with four felonies, was under the influence of spice at the time.
That case is pending in San Luis Obispo County Superior Court.