Mayor Sullivan introduces ordinance criminalizing synthetic cocaine
Contact: Sarah Erkmann
ANCHORAGE – After more than two months of preparation, the Municipality of Anchorage’s (MOA) Legal Dept. recently submitted Mayor Dan Sullivan’s ordinance to criminalize compounds currently being marketed and sold as bath salts, plant food, incense or dietary supplements to the Anchorage Assembly.
Much like the marketing of Synthetic Cannabinoids (Spice/K2) as incense, these substances are commercially available and in some cases are being marketed as “bath salts” under names such as “Vanilla Sky,” “Ivory Snow,” “Bliss,” “White Lightning,” “Hurricane Charlie,” and “Red Dove,” and in other cases packaged or marketed as plant food, dietary supplements, insect repellent, potpourri or incense.
“These products pose a real threat to our community’s health, as well as to our public safety personnel who are dealing with individuals under the influence of these dangerous drugs,” said Mayor Dan Sullivan. “Locally, we’ve seen an explosion in growth in the number of people using bath salts, and we need to act locally now to reverse that trend.”
Also, like Spice, the active ingredients in these products are creating challenges for both medical and public safety professionals because of the perception of their being a safe alternative to illegal drugs, and the ease with which they can be purchased in locations like convenience stores and pawn shops.
According to MOA Traffic Safety Resource Prosecutor Jennifer Messick, the ordinance is needed. “The use of designer drugs, including bath salts and plant food, is rapidly increasing both locally and nationally. As of July 2011, the American Association of Poison Control Center reported a 1,400 percent increase in calls for assistance in 2011 over 2010.” (In 2010, they received a total of 298 calls in the U.S.; between January - July 2011, they have received 4,137 calls.)
Messick continued, “In Anchorage, local police have responded to multiple situations involving designer drugs like bath salts and impaired driving, assaults, eluding and other situations that compromise public safety. Often, users are so impaired they are unable to walk, talk or even stand up. Because these drugs target primarily young adults and are marketed in a way to circumvent the current law, it’s necessary to pass additional legislation to cover these drugs.”
Nineteen states and numerous municipalities across the United States have already outlawed the substances.
The active ingredients found in these products include Phenazepam and Benzylpiperazine (BZP). Phenazepam is an unregulated benzodiazepine drug which, as with other benzodiazepines, in case of abrupt discontinuation following prolonged use, can induce severe withdrawal symptoms including restlessness, anxiety, insomnia, seizures, convulsions and death. BZP is a recreational drug with euphoric, stimulant properties. The effects produced by BZP are comparable to those produced by amphetamine. Adverse effects have been reported following its use including acute psychosis, renal toxicity, and seizures.
Users of these drugs report the effects are similar to cocaine, ecstasy or methamphetamine usage, including blurred vision, extremely elevated blood pressure, irregular heart rates, hallucinations, delusions, vomiting, suicidal thoughts, "highs," and disturbing side effects including feelings of excruciating pain, agitation and loss of control.
These products also are not tested or regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (U.S. Department of Agriculture) or other governmental regulatory agency for human consumption, and may contain chemicals detrimental and dangerous to the health and welfare of those ingesting them.
Currently, Alaska Statutes do not regulate the sale, purchase, possession, or manufacture of these substances. Senate Majority Leader Senator Kevin Meyer said that knowing that these unregulated substances are a concern to the Municipality that he will make this issue a personal priority. “This substance is a threat to people’s health and our public safety,” said Meyer. “It will cost us more in the long run if we don’t find a way to keep dangerous drugs off the street and out of the hands of our youth.”