Hillsborough County, Tampa have new tactics to get rid of synthetic drugs

Commissioners passed new ordinance to fine stores

TAMPA - City and county leaders are teaming up to take down stores that sell synthetic drugs.

"It's killing our kids. It's detrimental to their health. They don't know what's in this stuff," said Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller.

Synthetic drugs like Spice and K2 are big-time moneymakers for convenience store owners who sell them but they cause huge health problems for people who smoke them.

"Kidney failure, strokes, mental illness afterwards," said Miller.

Law enforcement raids like one at a Seffner convenience store only took the product off the shelf and the criminal cases weren't sticking.

Now Hillsborough County and the City of Tampa are changing tactics.

"If they don't pay, then we have a judgment against their property and we can foreclose on the property," said Senior Assistant County Attorney Paul Johnston.

Hillsborough County Commissioners passed a new ordinance Wednesday that will put the problem into code enforcement's hands.

"Soon as we get the list to notify them, we'll be sending out a letter within the week," said Kevin Jackson, Hillsborough County Consumer Protection Agency.

The letters will order stores to stop selling synthetic drugs or get fined hundreds of dollars, over and over again.

"If they don't pay it within 30 days, an additional fine per day will be assessed against them," said Johnston.

Miller says the idea is to hit store owners who won't stop selling where it hurts, turning a big-time money maker into a costly gamble.

"Hit them in the pocketbook," he said.

District 5 City Council Member Frank Reddick helped draft the ordinance.  City council will vote on the same ordinance Thursday morning.

"It's a strict ordinance," explained Reddick.

Reddick told ABC Action News the city and county have been working together for four months to draft an ordinance.  Reddick said what fueled him to keep going are the number of stores that sell synthetic drugs and how 'serious' a problem it has become.

Andrew Judah knows firsthand how detrimental these types of drugs can be and how they can change your life.

Judah, 19, used to smoke Spice on a daily basis.

"I always wanted to get high," said Judah.

Judah said his drug use led him into a downward spiral where he fell in with the wrong crowd and began committing burglaries.  During this time, Judah admits to introducing other people to Spice and getting them addicted.

He is currently living at the Drug Abuse Comprehensive Coordinating Office's residential treatment facility for men in east Tampa.  A judge assigned Judah to DACCO after learning of his addiction.  He has already been at the facility for two months but must complete a six month stint.

"I hurt a lot of people [using Spice] and lost my parents' trust," Judah explained.

He also hurt his health.

Judah recalls not being able to breath well after using Spice and not being able to taste or smell certain foods.  However, he fared a lot better than some of his friends. 

According to Judah, he has seen people have seizures and pass out using Spice.

Judah stands behind what local leaders are doing.  He only wishes stores would have been required to take synthetic drugs off store shelves when he started using.

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