Experts to Hold Forum on Flakka in Fort Lauderdale This Weekend

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Flakka has been making headlines across the United States lately and has been most prevalent in Florida, specifically Broward County, where there has been a 45 percent increase in flakka cases over the past year. 

Flakka's popularity has spread particularly into the urban areas, thanks to it being extremely inexpensive and extremely addictive.

County officials have tried being proactive in trying to stay ahead of the substance some call the "$5 insanity drug."

While flakka has made headlines thanks mainly to causing some users to act erratically, many still don't quite know everything there is to know about it. On Saturday, the Urban League of Broward County's Young Professionals Network and the TJ Reddick Bar Association are sponsoring a free forum in Fort Lauderdale featuring key figures in the field to educate the public and discuss flakka. 

The forum will give folks a chance to have whatever questions about flakka they have answered, particularly when it comes to how the drug is being policed. 

"The way this forum is set up, we will have an opportunity for members of the community to receive answers to many questions," Josiah Graham of Urban League Young Professional Network tells New Times. "One major concern from the community is that people of color will be disproportionately affected by BSO arresting Flakka users. People want to know how judges are sentencing drug dealers and users and what is the State Attorney's Office policy when it comes to prosecuting people arrested in possession of Flakka."

The forum, which will take place on Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Dillard High School auditorium, located at 2501 NW 11th St. in Fort Lauderdale, is free to the public and will feature speakers such as Judge Elijah Williams, Judge Sharon Zeller, State Attorney Michael Satz, BSO Sergeant Ozzy Tianga, and County Commissioner Dale Holness.

The forum will have recovering flakka addicts on hand to speak about their experience with the drug.

"The State Attorney's Office is conducting a grand jury investigation into Flakka and the State Attorney will be able to discuss some of the findings of that investigation," adds Graham, who will be moderating the forum. "These are just a sample of issues that will be addressed that have yet to be explained."

Back in June, citing how flakka is cheap to buy, and its potential danger, BSO Sheriff Scott Israel called it the "$5 insanity drug," a phrase coined by Jim Hall, an epidemiologist at the Center for Applied Research on Substance Use and Health Disparities at Nova Southeastern University.

Flakka, which police say is manufactured in China and shipped to the United States, reportedly gives users delusions and psychosis and makes them exceedingly aggressive. This has led to several strange incidents, such as when a Lake Worth man stripped naked, climbed on top of his apartment building with a handgun, and began to threaten to shoot himself and others. A Brevard County man who was found having sex with a tree was reportedly high on flakka. Police officers tasered him, but the man managed to pull the prongs off his body with his hands before punching one of the officers. In April, a man, high on flakka, was arrested for running naked in the streets. Another man, who cops say was smoking flakka, was arrested for threatening to cut his stepfather's head off.

What has been most alarming about flakka has been that it's very inexpensive.

According to Hall, a kilogram is worth $1,500 and can produce as many as 10,000 individual doses. Dealers have been known to sell 1/10th of a gram for just $4 or $5 on the street. And because it's cheap, the target customers are low-income neighborhoods.

"Low price is a key factor, and it's very potent," Hall told New Times. "People do enjoy the stimulant, euphoric effect at a relevant low dose."

Authorities have warned that flakka use is on the rise in South Florida.

"In 2014, we had one case of flakka in January, none in February, then we had 19 in March," says BSO spokesperson Keyla Concepcion. "There was a steady increase which peaked at 84 in September and then again began to decline toward the end of the year."

There will be free breakfast provided at Saturday's forum from 9:30 a.m. until the discussion begins at 10 a.m. The forum is scheduled to last until 12:30 p.m.

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