110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Jen Horton
posted Dec 11, 2012 - 12:09:10pm
An ordinance to make the sale of synthetic drugs a code-enforcement violation was voted down 3-2 by the DeLand City Commission at its Dec. 3 meeting.
The synthetic drugs, sold as bath salts and potpourri, are easy to purchase, and are not illegal. Only state government has the power to make the drugs illegal, but the city could classify their sale as a code-enforcement violation, similar to allowing one’s grass to grow too long.
Volusia Council of Governments Executive Director Mary Swiderski told the DeLand City Commission her agency was asking each municipality in the county to do two things: first, to pass a resolution urging the Florida Legislature to ban the synthetic drugs and, second, to ban the sale of the drugs within city limits for 60 days after the Florida Legislature’s 2013 session, which would give state representatives time to pass restrictive laws.
The age group who uses this type of drug, she said, is between 15 and 25.
“It’s a younger generation. They can get it legally,” Swiderski said. “They can go into a convenience store, a tobacco store.”
The “high” — or altered state — produced by the synthetic drugs is about five times greater than a high from traditional marijuana.
“There is an array of examples of bizarre behavior of what happens when you ingest this,” Swiderski said.
DeLand’s proposed ordinance would not have criminalized the sale of the drugs, but would have made the sale of them a code violation.
City Attorney Darren Elkind explained: If a complaint was received that a store was selling the drugs, code-enforcement officials could cite the store. The owner would have time to come into compliance — get rid of the drugs — or face daily fines.
This type of ordinance, he told commissioners, might encourage stores to make the economic decision not to sell the synthetic drugs.
Elkind warned the commission of the downside: Violations would have to be treated the same way as any other code-enforcement complaint.
“You have to apply it evenhandedly,” Elkind said. “If someone submits a list with every place that sells it, you have a duty to go out to each one.”
The code-enforcement department has been shrunk over the past several years to save money. Currently, the department responds only to complaints, and doesn’t go out searching for violations.
The City Commission also discussed the boundaries of DeLand. Should the bath salts and potpourri not be available in some parts of the city, people could literally walk across the street and buy them in the county.
City Commissioner Leigh Matusick said she was happy to see something on the table. She thought having something to work with was better than having nothing. In the event there was no definitive legislative action, Matusick said, at least the city had an option.
City Commissioner Vonzelle Johnson called the ordinance a disappointment. He wanted to see a resolution that would ask the Florida Legislature to enact a law upon which the cities could act.
“This is a matter that should be discussed at the state level,” Johnson said.
Matusick moved to adopt the ordinance; Mayor Bob Apgar passed the gavel so he could second the motion.
The two, however, could not win the other commissioners’ support. Johnson, Charles Paiva and Phil Martin formed a majority against the measure.
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