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Store Owners Warned Not to Sell Synthetic Marijuana

The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office began the process Monday of notifying 300 to 400 store owners about the latest synthetic substances that they cannot sell.

Synthetic marijuana products like Spice and K-2

Sheriff Bob Gualtieri formally announced Monday a campaign to have deputies hand deliver letters to about 300 to 400 local retailers.

The letters say that more synthetic substances commonly found in incense products are now classified as controlled substances and that it's a third-degree felony to possess or sell them. The state legislature recently added 92 chemicals to the list of banned substances. The law is detailed in Florida State Statute 893.03 and 893.13

Many retailers "are willing to stop as long as they have clarity what to expect ... I think they are going to be responsible. They are looking for a level playing field, consistent and uniform enforcement," Gualtieri said.

The products are labeled as potpourri but commonly shelved next to rolling paper and pipes, Gualtieri said.

Labeling is one of the challenges for the sheriff's office. The product labels often don't contain ingredients or the manufacture's contact information. The manufacturers expand the specific substances they place in the products regularly, which add to the enforcement challenge. The sheriff's office must have each product tested to see if it contains one of the banned substances, Gualtieri said.

Medical experts report side effects such as muscle spasms, hallucinations, seizures, kidney failure, aggression and severe paranoia, according to the sheriff's office.

"People are risking their health and well being ... Stores are making a lot of money but at the expense of public health,"  said Sgt. Dan Zsido.

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