Florida sure knows how to get caught up in a good drug scare, especially when it comes to substances that are on the cusp of becoming illegal or are downright fake in the first place. Our residents have seen some synthetics drugs' most horrifying effects, and our law enforcement officials have made some truly embarrassing gaffes when trying to stay ahead of the curve. When looking into the history of designer drugs over the past decade or so, we found that Florida seems to have played a starring role in a good number of high-profile cases. Although we're known for cocaine, pill mills, Molly-filled music festivals, and a burgeoning heroin epidemic, we've also shaped the national narrative of some less insidious substances.
Banned in Florida: Salvia Although most of the other wares available at head shops are or were more placebo than anything else, Salvia was seriously like an acid trip condensed into about ten minutes. Why did we ever do this? Smoking half a hit of this plant, which is native to the Sierra Mazateca of Mexico, would send people climbing trees to escape encroaching lava or into an existential panic about the sun's eventual explosion. It rarely, if ever, ended well. (Except in the case of Miley Cyrus, who seems to enjoy Salvia while anachronistically and bewilderingly listening to Bush's Sixteen Stone in the above video.)
In 2007, Delaware became the first state to ban it after 17-year-old Brett Chidester accidentally killed himself on the drug by lighting a charcoal grill inside of a tent. After the "Brett's Law" statute, other states followed suit, including Florida, which made the drug illegal in 2008 via a bill proposed by Rep. Mary Bradenburg from West Palm. Although it used to be readily available for about 15 bucks, possession is now punishable by five years in prison. At one point, a Hollywood resident named Angela Lugo started an unpopular change.org petition to overturn the ban.
Completely Fake: Jenkem After the moms of America went into a collective panic over Salvia, some internet pranksters found a pretty ingenious way to capitalize on the Reefer Madness-like hysteria. In 2007, an online denizen known as Pickwick posted photos of himself preparing "jenkem," a concoction made of human urine and feces that was purported to cause hallucinogenic effects if fermented and inhaled.
Of course, the first state to fall for it was Florida. By September of that year, the Collier County Sheriff's Office released an internal bulletin warning officers about a street drug known alternately as "winnie," "shit," "runners," "fruit from the crack pipe," "Leroy Jenkems," "Might," "Butthash," and "Waste." Butthash. SMH, Florida.
Potentially Makes You Eat People: Bath Salts Miami brought this drug into the spotlight when it was hypothesized that "Miami Zombie" Rudy Eugene ingested it before cannibalizing Ronald Poppo on the MacArthur Causeway in May 2012. The next month, Natasha Vargas-Cooper traveled the country cataloging bath-salt tweakers for Spin magazine and called it "America's New Drug Nightmare." Although it was eventually determined that the drug probably wasn't a factor in the zombie attack, it was banned in Florida by that July. Possession of three grams or less is now a first-degree misdemeanor.
Modified: Four Loko The family of Jason Kieran sued beverage maker Phusion Projects Inc. after the Florida State sophomore went 12 Loko (consumed three cans of Four Loko) and accidentally shot himself in September of 2010. The amount he consumed was equivalent to 18 beers and six cups of coffee. Although people stopped drinking the alcohol and energy drink amalgam when the caffeine content was removed by December of that year, this frat staple remains popular in some circles (See: "frat staple.")
Although DNA Info reported earlier this month that production would cease entirely, whoever manages Four Loko's Facebook page says the news outlet got the story wrong. "We're here to stay. #sorrynotsorry," he or she wrote on March 26.
By the way, the product Facebook page is probably the best-kept secret comedy goldmine on the whole internet. There are memes of Four Loko cans inexplicably Photoshopped into settings such as office cubicles and nonsensical messages like the one above that are posted every day. Take a second and let that sink in: Someone is Four Loko's social media manager. That is his or her job. I hope that after we destroy ourselves with nuclear missiles, this Facebook page is all that's left to prove our existence and aliens spend centuries trying to decipher the meaning of the word "realationship."
Always Changing: Synthetic Cannabis These products are made with synthetic ingredients designed to mimic the effects of THC. They began popping up around 2000 and weren't banned by the DEA until a decade later. The problem with criminalizing designer drugs like Spice, though, is that the chemical formula can just be tweaked to skirt the law. In December 2012, Attorney General Pam Bondi issued a temporary order that banned 27 compounds commonly used to make these substances.
K2, one of the most popular brands of fake weed, apparently tried to sell truly fake weed after the ban. Its "New Generation" product line was 100 percent legal but also 100 percent boring and cannabis-free. It's unclear what happened to the new K2, because it doesn't seem to be available even online.
Not Yet lllegal: Kratom A stimulant/depressant combo that's popular in Thailand, Kratom became the next Great American Drug Scare in 2012. It's currently listed as a "drug of concern" by the DEA, but the agency hasn't moved quickly toward banning Kratom like it did for drugs like spice and bath salts. In fact, you can still pick up some capsules at various head shops on Washington Avenue in Miami Beach or sip some tea made from the crushed leaf at the Purple Lotus Kava Bar, with locations in West Palm and Delray beaches.
Although some people say Kratom helps with depression and can be used to treat addiction to harder drugs, other people claim the psychoactive is habit-forming in its own right. One Jupiter couple is even suing Purple Lotus, a West Palm kava bar, for getting them hooked on the plant. It's hard to manage people hawking their mom's TV to keep a steady supply of the stuff -- it just makes you feel vaguely light-headed -- but it's probably the next head-shop high on the chopping block.
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