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James Quigg, staff photo
Blaze, one of the brands of spice or K2, or fake weed, a blend of spices and crushed leaves sprayed with chemicals that produce a marijuana-like buzz.

City ordinance to tackle synthetic drugs in works

Would make possession, sale illegal

Staff Writer
By the numbers:

• 50 to 500 times — amount stronger of chemical formula in “spice” compared to THC in marijuana

• $50,996 — difference in price between 30 oz. container of drugs mislabeled as bath salts and legitimate 30 oz. container of bath salts

• $9 — starting price for “spice”

• 138 — percent increase of “spice” poison control center calls from 2011 to 2012

• 1,900 — percent increase of bath salts poison control center calls from 2011 to 2012

• 0 — age limit for purchasing “spice” or bath salts

Source: Sarah Boyer, Institute for Public Strategies

Updated Jan. 17 to correct the spelling of Probation Officer Urquidies' last name and to clarify the name of the condition where an individual under the influence exhibits superhuman strength.

BARSTOW • Zeroing in on closing loopholes that exist under present laws, the city is currently drafting an ordinance that would make the possession and sale of “spice” and bath salts illegal in Barstow.

Officer Dante Caliboso, from the Barstow Police Department’s Street Enforcement Team, announced the plan to a crowd of roughly 50 Tuesday night at a community forum sponsored by the Barstow Community Coalition.

The ordinance is in the “beginning stages” according to Police Chief Albert Ramirez. A draft has already been sent to the city’s attorney for review, he said. Reviews will need to be finalized before the process reaches the city manager and City Council.

Adelanto became the first city in the High Desert to ban the synthetic drugs when it unanimously passed its ordinance in July.

Federal and state laws against the drugs have been widely panned for being a step behind. In July 2012, President Obama introduced the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act of 2012, which banned certain chemical structures found in the drugs. Critics, though, have argued that manufacturers can merely create new structures to avoid prosecution.

Preceding that law, California banned the sale of synthetic drugs last January. Still, stores in the region allegedly continue to sell.

“I’ve had community members in Barstow tell me they’ve seen them in smoke shops and in liquor stores,” Sarah Boyer, community organizer for the Institute for Public Strategies, said during her keynote speech.

“We all know anyone can walk in and ask for them by name and they’ll have them,” San Bernardino County Probation Officer Pomposo Urquidies said.

“We need to change the laws. It needs to be illegal to possess and illegal to use,” he said.

One current large loophole is that “spice” and bath salts are not illegal to possess. Usually marked with “not for human consumption” or “for novelty only,” manufacturers are able to circumvent current drug legislation.

Boyer gave the crowd, gathered at Crossroads Assembly Church, a primer on these synthetic drugs, which are often marketed in colorful packets to entice young adults and children.

“Spice,” also known as “K2,” is a mixture of herbs sprayed with toxic synthetic chemicals that can be used in a similar manner to marijuana, she said during her presentation.

Bath salts are synthetic chemicals in a powder or crystal-like form that have a high-risk of overdose and are as dangerous as cocaine, crystal meth and PCP, she said.

Side effects from “spice” include anxiety, increased heart rate, hallucinations and suicidal thoughts. Bath salts can bring about kidney failure, extreme paranoia, psychosis and increased blood pressure, according to Boyer.

Neither drug is detected on standard drug tests.

Urquidies called “excited delirium” the drugs’ greatest threat, where sometimes individuals under the influence can exhibit superhuman strength — similar to the effects of PCP — and explained that “it presents a direct danger to the community and to us as officers.”

For more information, contact the Barstow Substance Abuse-Free Environment (SAFE) Coalition at safebarstow@gmail.com or Sarah Boyer at 760-843-7003 or sboyer@publicstrategies.org.


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