An ordinance prohibiting synthetic drugs — spice and bath salts — in the city of Soldotna is up for introduction at this week’s Soldotna City Council meeting.
Soldotna Police Chief Peter Mlynarik said synthetic drugs have been on the rise in the last several years with police officers seeing the drugs more often on traffic stops, but the they are “tough to chase.”
While the State of Alaska has made certain chemicals occasionally found in spice illegal, field test kits are not available, Mlynarik said. Police departments have to send the drugs to the Alaska Department of Public Safety’s Crime Lab, which he said can be difficult and time consuming.
When a chemical has been banned by the state, manufacturers sometimes change it for one that isn’t, increasing the difficultly in stopping local trafficking of synthetic drugs, he said.
He said juvenile synthetic drug use is a concern and while the new restrictions, if adopted, may not deter some kids and teens from using, he thinks the making bath salts and spice illegal will help bring numbers down.
“I think (youth) may stay away from drugs that they know are banned — marijuana, meth, heroin — but on some substances where they know it’s not illegal, they could be more prone to try something like that where that substance can be just as bad as the others it’s just not illegal, ” Mlynarik said.
According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s website, synthetic cannabinoids use is “alarmingly high, especially among young people.” The 2012 Monitoring the Future survey for drug-use trends found one in nine 12th graders used synthetic cannabis in a one-year period, making it the second most popular drug used by that age group after marijuana.
While spice does contain dried plant material, active ingredients are designer cannabinoid compounds. No scientific studies have been done on spice’s effects on the brain, but the drugs produce effects similar to marijuana, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s website.
Bath salts, whose white crystals resemble bathing products, carry risks of overdose, hallucinations and death and, like spice, effects on the brain are not fully known, according to abovetheinfluence.com.
The new chapter code would make it illegal for anyone to possess, use, provide, sell produce, manufacture, distribute, offer, display, market or advertise any illicit synthetic drug. Each product, package or container can be counted as a separate minor offense, and all products in violation may be seized and held as evidence, according to the new chapter.
Adoption of the chapter would also make it unlawful for anyone to provide, sell or offer for sale a product for human consumption when it is labeled “not for human consumption.” Mlynarik said this labeling trend is a way for manufacturers to avoid the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations as well as accountability.
“I think it’s to avoid liabilities, too,” he said. “They can say, ‘Well, we said it’s not for human consumption,’ when clearly they know that they’re going to introduce it into their body in some way.”
The new code, if enacted calls for amendment to the city’s bail forfeiture and fine schedule to be amended to include a $500 fine for illicit synthetic drugs and a $500 for the sale of drugs marked not for consumption.
Public hearing for the ordinance is scheduled for the March 26 council meeting.
Kaylee Osowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.