Mayor Sullivan introduces ordinance criminalizing synthetic cocaine
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
"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
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."