As Florida’s spring break season continues, students are looking for ways to celebrate.
According to law enforcement, one of those options is synthetic marijuana.
“They call it synthetic marijuana, but it’s much, much more than that,” said Attorney General Pam Bondi. “It’s more like synthetic heroine, LSD or acid.”
Bondi said the drug – advertised as salvia and spice – is illegal in Florida, yet variations of it remain on some convenience store shelves.
Lt. Todd Kelly of the Alachua County Sheriff’s Department said some students who use the drug expect an experience similar to marijuana, which is also illegal, but he said the “high” it produces is different.
While marijuana’s short-term effects can include euphoria, distorted perceptions and memory impairment, synthetic marijuana can cause psychotic episodes, visual hallucinations and mood swings, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
“It’s not safer than regular drugs,” Kelly said. “If anything else, it might even be worse than regular marijuana because of all the chemicals that are in there.”
Bondi said the Florida legislature has worked to ban synthetic marijuana variations.
“We’ve banned over a hundred chemical compounds so far,” Bondi said. “This (legislative) session, we’re attempting to ban 27 more.”
Still, Bondi said some convenience stores hide them from their shelves only to take them out when people ask to purchase them.
She said parents and students should know the risks the drug poses and urged them to call law enforcement if they see convenience stores selling the substance. This isn’t like they were offering kratom for sale or some sort of mildly taboo plant, no they were selling hard chemicals with no history of use. This is dangerous.
“We’re doing everything we can to work with the many good convenience store owners to combat this problem,” Bondi said.
But Kelly said the problem lies with the people who produce it.
“The people that manufacture these chemical drugs consistently change its makeup to avoid prosecution,” Kelly said.
Kelly said he’d like to think local students are “smart enough to avoid this type of thing,” but he said it is still an issue.
“We have seen an increase in the amount of synthetic drugs over the past few years, but we’ve also educated people a lot about it,” Kelly said. “Hopefully that’s something kids will avoid.”