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San Luis Obispo City Council bans synthetic drugs 

Despite their names, the synthetic drugs often called spice and bath salts are anything but benign, quaint, and homey.

That’s the message that the San Luis Obispo City Council received from SLO Police Department Investigations Lt. John Bledsoe at its Sept. 1 meeting before unanimously voting to ban synthetic drugs in the city.

“The purpose of this ordinance is really quite simple,” Bledsoe told the council. “It’s about public safety.”

The new ordinance will ban both the sale and possession of synthetic drugs in city limits. Of the various kinds of synthetic drugs on the market, many of which have an ambiguous legal status, spice—a common name for synthetic marijuana—and bath salts—which often mimic the effects of methamphetamine, cocaine, or LSD—are the two most common.

Both substances can be purchased at some liquor stores, head shops, or on the Internet, and are considered to be potentially harmful and dangerous.

“They can cause similar effects as illegal street drugs, but they can [also] be much more severe,” Bledsoe said.

According to Bledsoe, since 2011 SLOPD has seen at least 19 cases in which officers responded to an incident that involved a person who’d ingested synthetic drugs. Of those incidents, one person was taken to the hospital for medical aid, and 18 resulted in arrests for charges including driving under the influence, public intoxication, or violations of the health and safety code.

The U.S. federal government already bans the production and sale of some synthetic drugs, but producers stay one step ahead by altering a chemical compound in the drug, creating a version that isn’t included in the ban. The Drug Enforcement Agency has since added new versions to the ban, but isn’t able to keep up. In response, several cities have banned synthetic drugs, including Atascadero, Paso Robles, and Morro Bay.

-- Melody DeMeritt - former city council member, Morro Bay

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