The law would ban the possession, distribution and sale of synthetic drugs that are often given such innocuous names as bath salts, herbal incense and spice. The ordinance would give law enforcement the authority it needs to investigate and prosecute the use of these drugs, Sheriff Ian Parkinson said.
“Ideally, this is an issue where we can get 100 percent compliance,” he told supervisors at a meeting Tuesday.
Synthetic drugs are chemically laced substances similar to marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine that are sold over the counter at some convenience stores, gas stations and tobacco shops.
The proposed ordinance received broad support among supervisors Tuesday. Supervisor Bruce Gibson said the community will be better off with a ban.
Supervisor Debbie Arnold agreed. “I will sleep better with this ordinance in place,” she said.
The only supervisor to express concern was Adam Hill, who said some drugs are over-criminalized and cited as an example the difficulty of growing and making medical marijuana available to the public, even though it is legal in California.
“I think there is a double standard toward some things that can be bad for you,” he said. “Otherwise, I would be in jail for overeating and lack of exercise.”
District Attorney Dan Dow said spice is particularly popular because it has the same effect as marijuana but is much harder to detect. The innocent-sounding names given to the drugs are specifically intended to attract young people.
“It’s a very real danger,” Dow said.
The state and federal governments have attempted to prohibit synthetic drugs but have not been effective because the drug manufacturers continually alter the composition of the drugs’ compounds to skirt the laws, Parkinson said.
The cities of Atascadero, Paso Robles, Morro Bay, San Luis Obispo and Pismo Beach already have similar bans in place. Parkinson said a countywide ban would prevent the sale of synthetic drugs from migrating to the unincorporated areas of the county.
Parkinson said the use of synthetic drugs has caused several tragedies in the county. A car accident in October 2014 on Highway 1 near Cayucos in which four passengers were thrown from a vehicle was attributed to the driver smoking spice. Two people, a 17-year-old boy and a 22-month-old child were killed. Parkinson said a recent suicide in the county also was related to smoking spice.
If adopted, the ban would allow law enforcement to charge violators with misdemeanors or infractions punishable by fines or jail time.