Tampa takes aim at synthetic drug sales
The Tampa City Council gave its first approval to a citywide ban on the sale of synthetic drugs, including bath salts and fake marijuana. The ban focuses on the sale, marketing and display of the drugs, which are often given prime space in stores that carry them.
Store owners would also have to identify the materials, which are sold as potpourri, iPod cleaner and other uses, as “unfit for human consumption.”
City officials said the approach gives Tampa more leeway to rid stores of the drugs.
The state’s approach, which has focused on the chemical composition of the drugs, creates a cat-and-mouse game as drugmakers change recipes to get around the law, Assistant City Attorney Julia Mandell has told council members.
The state has 52 compounds on its list of banned synthetic-drug substances. Legislators plan to add more this year, she told the council Thursday.
Store owners caught selling, displaying or marketing banned items will be charged with a municipal code violation. They face a $500 fine and/or 60 days in jail. The ordinance lets Tampa police officers and city Code Enforcement staff cite violators.
The St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday also voted to outlaw general synthetic drug products. Pasco and Hillsborough counties have adopted similar ordinances.
Tampa Councilman Frank Reddick, whose district is home to many of the stores selling synthetic drugs, praised the ordinance. “Not only is it going to hurt them financially, but they can go to jail,” Reddick said.
The ordinance will get a second reading on April 18 to make it official.
Also at their Thursday meeting, council members:
Approved a $5 million contract with Republic Services of Florida to haul about 40 percent of the city’s commercial garbage. The 3-year contract will replace a 5-year contract with Waste Management that expired at the end of 2012. A review of that contract found about $1.6 million in overpayments to Waste Management based on billing errors by the city and the hauler. The new contract has safeguards to avoid a similar situation, said Public Works Director Mike Herr.
Considered options for financing repairs to Cuscaden Pool in the V.M. Ybor neighborhood. The pool has been closed for three years after it leaked following after an earlier repair job. Parks Director Greg Bayor told council members the pool needs $1.5 million in repairs. The city has $2.5 million planned next year for repairs to the Cuscaden and Hicks pools, Bayor said. In all, the city has tallied $11 million in needed pool repairs and has spent or budgeted $6 million, Bayor said.
Heard a plea from skateboarder Shannon Bruffett to respect the historic nature of the city’s 34-year-old “Bro Bowl” skateboard park at North Orange Avenue and East Laurel Street. The bowl is part of Perry Harvey Sr. Park, which is to get a $7 million makeover. That makeover calls for demolishing the current bowl and building a new one elsewhere in the park.