BALTIMORE (WJZ) — They’re packaged as natural substances sold in drug stores and gas stations, but synthetic drugs are illegal nationwide.
Now the city has a law that goes one step further, by punishing stores that sell the substances.
Gigi Barnett has more.
With slick, colorful packaging and creative, harmless names like Spice, ScUby Snax and K2, they’re synthetic drugs–dried leaves and herbs, sprayed with a dangerous chemical.
After smoking it, users are ending up in emergency rooms across the country and in Maryland.
“I just had a 68-year-old lady the other day who tried it. She couldn’t remember her name. Her heart rate was up, she was confused, she was agitated,” said Dr. Brad Schwaritz, Prince George’s Hospital Center.
In Baltimore, the aim is blocking the drug from ever reaching a user’s hand at the point of sale.
A new law signed by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake would do just that–anyone caught selling synthetic drugs in the city will pay a price.
“It seizes any product suspected of being a synthetic drug with a $1,000 fine per package and it allows for the suspension or revocation of the license of a retailer licensed by the health department,” the mayor said.
But where the drug is sold, like mom and pop stores and gas stations, may mask its potency.
“People think that if you see a drug that is called ‘natural,’ that it’s somehow safer or that it’s legal. But actually, it’s just as dangerous, if not more dangerous, than some of the illegal drugs that are out there,” said Dr. Leana Wen, Baltimore City Health Commissioner.
Back in October, the city launched an education campaign for stores. They even gave them signs to put in their windows, telling would-be buyers that selling illegal synthetic drugs in the city now comes with a hefty fine.
“Our environmental inspectors, when they do the inspections for the stores anyway, if they see a package, they can confiscate the package and potentially give the fine,” Dr. Wen said.
Stores that voluntarily take the synthetic drugs off their shelves will not face any penalties.
The city says it targeted more than 1,200 retailers across the city, warning them not to sell synthetic drugs.