Creative crackdown on synthetic drugs

Posted: Updated:
By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

APACHE JUNCTION, Ariz. -- Pinal County Attorney James Walsh and every law enforcement agency in the county have teamed up to crack down on synthetic drugs, including spice and bath salts.

“They’re dangerous, they’re deadly, and they need to me removed from store shelves in Pinal County,” said Walsh.
Mimicking a program already in place in Yavapai County, Walsh will use public nuisance laws to seek injunctions against retailers who sell the drugs.
“You’re gonna meet me in court, because we’re gonna go after you under public nuisance laws,” said Walsh.
There have been efforts to ban synthetic drugs in Arizona. Jan Brewer signed emergency legislation banning the sale of bath salts in February of this year. However, manufacturers of the drugs quickly find loopholes.
“When we outlaw a drug, we outlaw the chemical composition, so chemists go in an change it so the drug is not illegal,” said Doug Coleman with the Drug Enforcement Administration.
The Federal Analog Act allows chemicals that are substantially similar to illegal drugs to be treated as illegal drugs, but Arizona does not have a similar law.
“Federal agents spend most of time on large scale efforts, not busting different stores in towns across the state,” said Walsh.
That allows local retailers to sell synthetic drugs without much fear of prosecution, and that’s why law enforcement agencies in Arizona are starting to get creative in their efforts to rid their streets of the drugs, which can cause violent and outlandish behavior.
In Pinal County, stores will first have the opportunity to sign a community participation agreement to stop selling the drugs.
“First we’re going to give them the opportunity to be good citizens,” said Walsh.
In Apache Junction, six of the seven retailers that sell spice and bath salts have already agreed to pull them from the shelves.
If retailers do not sign the community participation agreement, Walsh said he will seek court injunctions to stop the sale of the drugs.
Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Sullivan Polk obtained a similar injunction on September 17.
Walsh said he is taking this route to stop what he calls an epidemic.
Earlier this week, Phoenix Police arrested Jesse Miller for allegedly brutally beating his 1-year-old daughter after using spice.
Apache Junction Police Captain Tom Kelly said he wasn’t surprised by the attack, and has seen other violent, spice-related behavior in his jurisdiction.
“People have ingested these synthetic drugs and attacked someone for no reason at all,” said Kelly.