El Cajon looks to rid business district of bath salt drugs
Businesses asked to stop sale of synthetic drugs
Last Updated: 450 days ago
EL CAJON, Calif. -
Law enforcement officials and community activists embarked on a campaign Friday to convince El Cajon merchants to refrain from selling recreational drugs marketed under such deceptive labels as "bath salts," "spice," and "incense."
El Cajon police Officer Sean Sayre visited about 20 grocery stores, liquor outlets and smoke shops along with representatives of the Neighborhood Market Association and Communities Against Substance Abuse through the late morning and afternoon to urge retailers to help keep the dangerous substances out of the East County city.
The effort will continue over the next several weeks, with the goal of contacting a total of about 140 businesses, Sayre said.
City officials know of no stores selling the products, though a number of local merchants have admitted to having done so in the recent past, before they were aware of the associated public-health risks, according to Sayre.
Though the drugs are illegal under several recent California laws, they can be chemically "tweaked" just enough to make them fall outside the bounds of the legislation while retaining their psychoactive properties, Lt. Mark Coit said.
The compounds often are labeled with such brand names as Blizzard, Blue Silk, Charge, Ivory Snow, Ivory Wave, Ocean Burst, Pure Ivory, Purple Wave, Snow Leopard, Stardust, Vanilla Sky, White Dove, White Knight and White Lightning.
Despite the innocuous-sounding names, the substances are synthetic stimulants that carry serious risks of overdose, hallucinations and even death, according to physicians and law enforcement officials.
Abusers snort, smoke and inject the concoctions intravenously and can experience rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, chest pains, agitation, hallucinations, extreme paranoia and delusions.
In El Cajon, authorities documented six medical emergencies caused by the drugs over the past year. Each of them involved patients who required hospital care, Coit said.
In January and February 2011, abuse of the substances resulted in more than 250 calls to U.S. poison centers, well over the 236 received nationwide during all of 2010, according to healthcare officials.
Last month, the El Cajon City Council authorized Police Chief Jim Redman to send the voluntary-compliance letters that began going out today, and approved a request by Redman and City Manager Doug Williford to draft an ordinance that would make distribution of the drugs a public nuisance.
The latter strategy was undertaken by the county Board of Supervisors in March.
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