The Broward County Commission has started crafting legislation to ban "bath salts and synthetic cannabinoid herbal incense that mimic illegal drugs." A news release announcing the move included the token Rudy Eugene reference, noting that Miami police are looking into whether he was high on bath salts when he ate a homeless man's face (he wasn't).
But should Broward lump bath salts and herbal incenses into the same category and create a blanket ban?
"Bath salts and incense are two different beasts," says Thomas Wright, a Boca Raton-based attorney who focuses on herbal incense laws. "It's like saying marijuana and LSD are the same thing."
Wright says that bath salts are "incredibly dangerous" and that the majority of manufacturers have no chemical background and are clueless about what they're concocting. He likens the substance to "synthetic meth or synthetic PCP."
"I've had guys who manufacture these bath salts come into my office, and we won't even deal with it," he says. "There are certain things that cross the line, and this stuff is very dangerous... It's super coke."
It's not just the Broward commission looking to get bath salts banned. Sweetwater's City Commission is slated to meet Wednesday night to discuss whether they should require that all bath salts be sold in 16-ounce quantities as a way of preventing the sale of "1 to 5 gram baggies used to dispense synthetic cocaine." And just a few days ago, the Miami-Dade County Commission approved a blanket ban on a whole host of these drugs.
Meanwhile, Wright has taken on numerous clients who manufacture synthetic weed, commonly branded as herbal incense. He says that the herbal incense market is "insanely profitable" and that no law will curb demand or production.
It costs only about $2,000 for someone to produce 10,000 one-gram bags of chemically treated incense, Wright says. They can resell those bags for about eight bucks each, netting a nearly $80,000 profit.
These drugs, while carrying certain risks, pale in comparison when viewed against the effects of bath salts, Wright says.
"I get ten calls a day from manufacturers, distributors, retailers of all sorts about various strong-arm tactics being used by law enforcement all over the place to seize herbal incense," he says. "The problem is there's such a heavy demand for incense. It's a multibillion-dollar industry. I've talked to manufacturers here who are pulling in $30 million a month."
Wright suspects that bath salts aren't nearly as profitable and that the market will stifle itself as retailers are increasingly leery of selling a drug associated with cannibalism and floor humping.
"But is it legislatively possible to really put an end to it? It's really difficult," Wright says.
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The Broward commission expects a first draft of the ordinance to be completed in the fall.