SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The City Council today unanimously approved a ban on a synthetic drug known as "spice," which San Diego authorities say is responsible for a rash of hundreds of medical distress cases in recent months.
The law prohibits the manufacture, sale, distribution and possession of federal Schedule I drugs, "novel synthetic drugs" and "novel psychoactive drugs," categories that include spice, according to the City Attorney's Office.
The San Diego Police Department recommended the ban -- which does not apply to medical marijuana -- because of holes in state and federal regulations that are exploited by makers and sellers of so-called designer drugs. Only a handful of the 100 or so chemical formulas used to make the drug are prohibited.
According to a staff report, emergency medical personnel responded to 650 cases of medical distress caused by spice between November and March, around two-thirds in a swath of the city running from Barrio Logan through downtown to Hillcrest. Downtown and East Village saw about half the cases.
The average number of calls per month from April to October last year was seven, the report said.
In February, there were 120 such cases in downtown alone. Spice is frequently used by the homeless, particularly in the 300-500 blocks of C Street -- alongside the trolley tracks just east of City Hall -- and the 1200-1300 blocks of Imperial Avenue, according to the report.
"I think this issue is, first and foremost, a neighborhood quality-of- life concern," said Councilman Todd Gloria, who represents most of the affected areas. "A lot of business owners in East Village, Hillcrest and elsewhere have been in touch with me about what this is doing to their bottom lines and to their neighborhood character."
He said it's also a budgetary issue, with city personnel responding to the calls, and makes the homelessness problem more difficult to solve.
Investigators viewing surveillance camera footage said they saw the drug consumed almost immediately after purchase, and they described as "alarming" what came next.
"Several of the users became incapacitated immediately after ingesting the spice," the report says. "Many fell directly to their knees and shortly thereafter, lost consciousness. Some began stumbling and had difficulty standing or walking. Many had to hold onto the side of a building, a nearby tree, newspaper stand or some other sturdy object to prevent from falling."
Emergency medical personnel were sometimes met by violent responses from spice users too incoherent to realize someone was trying to help them, according to the report.
Police said spice is a mixture of herbs and spices that is typically sprayed with a synthetic compound chemically similar to THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Manufacturers typically alter the molecular structure of the drug in order to get around narcotics laws.
The drug looks and feels like marijuana and is ingested by smoking but is far more potent, according to the report.
Police said the ban will be enforced criminally, civilly or administratively through procedures already existing in the municipal code. Criminal enforcement will come in the form of misdemeanors or infractions, with penalties ranging up to three years probation, six months in jail and a $2,500 fine.
Gloria, who is being termed out this year and is running for an Assembly seat, said he hopes the City Council's action will prompt the state to tighten its laws on designer drugs.
City council approved ban on synthetic drugs unanimously.— Brandon Lewis (@BrandonCBS8) May 23, 2016
Ordinance now heads for a second reading, which puts it on track to go into effect in mid-July— Brandon Lewis (@BrandonCBS8) May 23, 2016
San Diego announces new initiative, proposed law to combat synthetic drugs known as "spice" and "bath salt" pic.twitter.com/4PjkF0eBwX— Brandon Lewis (@BrandonCBS8) May 23, 2016
A slow-moving brush fire blackened dozens of open acres east of Pala Casino Tuesday, sending plumes of smoke over northeastern San Diego County but posing no reported structural threats.
The next time you can't find the energy to take a 16 hour flight to Australia, consider visiting Walkabout Australia - a new four acre animal habitat designed by one of Australia's own.
Students at Calavera Hills Middle School in Carlsbad on Wednesday will be recognized for their creation of prosthetic devices using 3D printers that will help children around the world.
The San Diego City Council Tuesday rejected an emergency ordinance that would have banned motorized scooters on boardwalks in Mission Beach, Pacific Beach, Mission Bay and La Jolla.
A domestic violence suspect holed up in a Paradise Hills apartment Tuesday when police arrived in response to a reported disturbance, leading to a four-hour standoff that ended when he finally surrendered.
The San Diego City Council, also operating as the Housing Authority, Tuesday renewed operating and oversight agreements for the city's three temporary tent shelters for the homeless over the objections of Councilman David Alvarez, who called the shelters a "complete failure."
A sheriff's deputy accused of groping a teenage girl while standing behind her in a Vista fast-food restaurant line pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges of committing a lewd act on a 14-year-old and accessing a computer to look up information on the case.
Becoming a social media influencer is a popular way to earn cash on the side these days. It’s not as easy as it sounds, but we've got insider tips from a pro on how to be successful.