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Staff photo, James Quigg
Blaze, one of the brands of spice, or fake weed, a blend of spices and crushed leaves sprayed with chemicals that produce a marijuana-like buzz.

City Council to consider synthetic drug ban


BARSTOW • Members of the Barstow Substance Abuse Free-Environment Coalition are rallying together to support a citywide ban on synthetic drugs, more commonly known as spice or bath salts.

SAFE Coalition member DeeDe Crigler said she will testify about the dangers of the alternative drugs at Monday’s city council meeting, along with at least three other members of the group.

“People are dying with first-time use of synthetic drugs,” Crigler said. “Some of the chemicals make them 50 times stronger than marijuana and they’re packaging them just like candy.”

Crigler said one of her teenage daughter’s friends bought a package of them at a local liquor store accidentally, believing they were the popular candy “Pop Rocks.”

“There’s no age limit for who can purchase them,” Crigler said.

Calls to nationwide Poison Control Centers for exposure to spice increased from 2,915 to 6, 959 in 2011, according to a fact sheet distributed by the SAFE Coalition. And federal regulations only ban the chemicals within the drugs, according to Crigler, allowing the producers to make minor alterations and keep them lawfully on the market.

Retired Barstow Police Officer and Councilman Rich Harpole said he’s worked in the area of drugs and gangs throughout his career and believes synthetic drugs represent a significant hazard to the community.

“I’m very concerned about the influence of drugs in the community and their harmful effects on individuals and their potential for success in life,” he said. “It’s my hope that the city will agree with that assessment and pass the ordinance.”

The first reading of the ordinance is expected to be presented at the city council meeting Monday or at a later meeting, according to Harpole.

Barstow Unified School District Superintendent Jeff Malan is also a member of the SAFE Coalition. He said the district has not received any reports of synthetic drug cases within the district but they are working proactively to combat them.

“We know it’s prevalent and there are cases of synthetic drugs as far as being for sale and that’s what concerns me,” he said. “We want to be proactive and be aware and know how to address situations with students if they come upon this or have questions.”

The City of Adelanto was the first High Desert city to approve an ordinance banning synthetic drugs in July 2012. The ban being proposed in Barstow would be very similar to Adelanto’s ordinance, according to Sarah Boyer, a community organizer for the SAFE Coalition and Institute of Public Strategies.

The next city council meeting is scheduled for Monday at 7 p.m. at City Hall.

Contact the writer: or 760-256-4123.

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