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County Moves to Put Squeeze on Sellers of Speed-like Bath Salts, Synthetic Pot

In an effort to stop the sale of "bath salts" and "herbal incense" products that are used to get high, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors today asked for a draft ordinance, declaring them a public nuisance and subject to civil abatement in unincorporated areas.

"The county cannot enact criminal laws regarding controlled substances. But today we can give law enforcement and prosecutors an additional tool by declaring these drugs a public nuisance and creating a civil abatement alternative in unincorporated areas of the county," Supervisor Greg Cox said.

Some bath salts contain amphetamine-like chemicals. Synthetic cannabinoids - the class of psychoactive ingredients in marijuana - are used in products known as K2, spice, or herbal incense, which are sold online, in liquor stores, and smoke shops.

According to Cox, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and Sheriff Bill Gore, who wrote a letter in support of the ordinance, ruling the stuff a nuisance gives the county a legal means of forcing retailers who sell the products out of business.

"That tool will allow us to hit businesses where it counts, if they don't get it off the shelves," Dumanis said.

The state Health and Safety Code was recently amended to provide sanctions against the sale, distribution and possession of synthetic cannabinoids and synthetic stimulants.

Cox and Dumanis credited Assemblyman Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, who authored AB 486, for the "heavy lifting" in changing state law.

According to the letter from Dumanis and Gore, the American Association of Poison Control Centers last year received 6,702 calls about bath salts, up from 303 calls in 2010. Cox said the synthetic stimulants were "popular, cheap, easily available and dangerous to the user to the point of causing seizures and being potentially lethal, as well as dangerous to the community."

The board voted unanimously to direct the chief administrative officer to have a draft ordinance ready for review in 60 days.

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