August 21, 2012 (El Cajon) --At last week's El Cajon City Council meeting, the Council voted unanimously to support El Cajon Police Chief Jim Redman’s request for authorization to mail letters to local retailers asking them to voluntarily decline to sell psychoactive synthetic drugs, the most common of which are known as “bath salts,” which have intoxicating effects similar to cocaine and other stimulants, and “spice,” which have intoxicating effects similar to marijuana. Redman also asked the City Council to direct City staff to return as soon as reasonably possible with an ordinance finding that the distribution of synthetic drugs constitutes a public nuisance, and to provide for enforcement to abate such a public nuisance.
Redman and the El Cajon City Manager Douglas Williford brought this request after Councilmembers Bill Wells and Gary Kendrick had previously expressed concerns with the increased availability of such synthetic drugs in the community.
Both state and federal laws make it illegal to sell, distribute or possess synthetic drugs having chemical compositions similar to those found in these types of psychoactive cannabinoids and stimulants. However, the enforcement of these crimes against small distributors, such as convenience stores and locally-owned markets, is difficult where testing of the products could involve costly and time-consuming procedures.
This difficulty in criminal enforcement led Redman and Williford to recommend civil enforcement against store owners and others who make the drugs available to the public, as a means of reducing accessibility in the City. Redman was joined by Mark Arabo, president and CEO of the Neighborhood Market Association, and Dana Stevens, a representative of Communities Against Substance Abuse (CASA), in support of the request. Ms. Stevens provided a Power Point presentation to the Council on the dangers of synthetic drugs.
According to studies, in 2010, poison centers nationwide responded to about 3,200 calls related to "spice" and "bath salts.” In 2011, that figure jumped to more than 13,000. Effects of these drugs include impaired perception, reduced motor control, disorientation, extreme paranoia and violence. The long-term physical and psychological effects remain unknown.
The City of El Cajon is working in partnership with CASA and the Neighborhood Market Association to address this important issue, with a goal of removing these dangerous substances from the community.
It is expected that the City Attorney will bring a proposed ordinance to the City Council as early as September 25.