Florida, mirroring federal policy, has long had a prohibition policy regarding narcotics and substances viewed by legislators to be dangerous to society, criminalizing them and throwing people in prison for already the insignificant possession of natural products, like cannabis. Those seeking a high sought more creative ways to get that high, and produced synthetic drugs that did not fit under the existing categories of illegal substances.
For a time, these substances were legal. They could be found in stores across the state. Synthetic marijuana, often called “spice” or “K2,” was marketed as “herbal smoking blends” or “herbal incense.” Bath salts, a kind of synthetic amphetamine or heroin, was marketed as just that – bath salts, hence its nickname. The products were widely obtainable in many neighborhoods.
However, the reputation of synthetic drugs, particularly bath salts, quickly escalated into extreme fear. Bath salts became known as a substance that could cause violent behavior. When a man was shot and killed by Miami police in May 2012 while evidently eating the confront of a homeless man, speculation in the media and social networks that it was the consequence of bath salts and that synthetic drugs were the source of some kind of coming zombie apocalypse. Truth did not bear this reputation out: an autopsy of the man showed that the man, in fact, only have marijuana in his system and the more likely reason for his actions was mental illness.
In March 2012, Gov. Rick Scott signed House Bill 1175, banning more than 90 types of synthetic drugs, including salvia, synthetic marijuana and bath salts. The law also banned several compounds that are commonly used in synthetic drugs in an effort to keep producers of synthetic drugs from creating new types. They are Schedule I drugs under Florida Statute § 893.03, meaning the Legislature feels they are the most dangerous kind of drug obtainable, with high possible for abuse and no accepted medical use.
As a Schedule I drug, Florida punishes any crime relating to them particularly harshly. insignificant possession of any of these synthetic drugs, consequently, is a third degree felony in Florida, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Possession with intent to sell is a second degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Trafficking is punished most harshly of all, as a first degree felony with penalties ranging up to 30 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.