Brevard County officials are putting sellers of synthetic designer drugs on notice: The county will track you down.
The County Commission on Tuesday unanimously approved an ordinance giving the Brevard County Sheriff's Office the power to charge sellers of synthetic drugs with a county code violation. People found guilty would face fines of up to $15,000.
There already are federal and state drug laws on the books. But makers of synthetic drugs change their chemical compositions so quickly, those laws often cannot keep up with the new variations.
Under the new county ordinance, the sale, display for sale, marketing, advertisement or other offer for sale of synthetic drugs will be considered a county code violation. The Sheriff's Office — which pushed for the measure — would be the primary enforcer. A special magistrate would consider penalties for violators of the ordinance, which would apply only to unincorporated parts of the county.
County Attorney Scott Knox said the ordinance takes effect as soon as it is filed with Florida's Department of State, likely a matter of days.
To overcome regulatory obstacles, the county's synthetic drug ordinance describes what synthetic drugs are in detail, including noting that they often are "marketed for a purpose for which it is rarely, if ever, suitable for use," such as food additive, glass cleaner, incense, insect repellant, iPod cleaner, plant food, potpourri or therapeutic bath crystals.
The products often are "displayed and sold in businesses such as liquor stores, smoke shops and gas/convenience stores, where products intended for a similar use are not typically sold," the ordinance notes. "The price of the product is disproportionately higher than other products marketed in Brevard County for the same or similar use."
The drugs typically are marketed to young adults and teenagers as a safe and legal alternative to controlled substances such marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines and ecstasy. Some are designed to make them appear similar to street drugs, such as a white powder made to resemble cocaine or an herbal substance dyed green to resemble marijuana.
Ingestion of synthetic drugs has been fatal in some cases.
Brevard follows several other Florida counties in enacting such a law, including Broward, Hillsborough and Palm Beach.