Pinellas deputies cracking down on synthetic drugs | Crime
LARGO, Florida -- Pinellas County deputies are launching an effort to take synthetic drugs off the streets.
But for them and other local agencies, doing so is proving to be a challenge.
On Monday morning the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office began going door-to-door to convenience stores to make sure business owners are in compliance with laws banning the sale or possession of the chemicals found in synthetic drugs.
New laws that took effect over the weekend add about 100 chemicals to the banned list in Florida, as well as make it a third degree felony to sell or possess them.
"It's causing very serious health issues and it causes kids to die," said Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.
The drugs are also referred to as K2 or Spice, among other names.
Part of the plan for deputies will include educating stores about which chemicals are legal and which aren't.
Drug manufacturers are constantly changing chemicals to stay ahead of the laws, making it very difficult for store owners to keep up.
That also makes in a challenge for law enforcement to get convictions in these cases.
"The problem we face is the manufacturers of these products are really being irresponsible. They're preying on the kids," Gualtieri said.
Deputies are asking businesses to voluntarily comply with the new laws.
But store owners face a difficult dilemma because often times the products are still technically legal and they're very popular.
"It's a great moneymaker. I mean you pay $1 and you sell it for $10. That's the problem with people that want to stop selling," said Nazih Tageddine, who owns a convenience store on Indian Rocks Beach.
The sheriff's office plans to visit 300-400 stores in the coming weeks.
Deputies also hope to keep push state legislators to pass more laws to keep pace with the chemists.