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  • SPICE CRACKDOWN

    Supervisors approve synthetic drug ordinance

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  • SAN BERNARDINO — San Bernardino County on Tuesday became the second county in the state to adopt an ordinance to stop the sale of synthetic drugs.
    The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved an ordinance proposed by Sheriff John McMahon at the board’s meeting Tuesday morning. The new law will allow the county to press criminal and administrative charges against distributors of the drugs.
    “It’s another tool for our deputies,” McMahon told the Daily Press on Tuesday. “The (California) Health and Safety Code defines these chemicals found in the drugs, but the chemicals are changed faster than the codes can, and we can’t prosecute unless the chemicals match. With this ordinance, we can penalize suppliers.”
    First District supervisor Robert Lovingood said in a written statement that the ordinance “closes loopholes” in the system, making it a misdemeanor to provide, distribute or sell synthetic drugs.
    Lovingood also said that those violating the ordinance can be fined up to $1,000 and sentenced to up to six months in prison.
    The drugs, known as “spice” or “bath salts,” have gained traction in the High Desert and throughout the nation because they are harder to detect on standard drug tests. For that reason, Karrel Collins of the Fort Irwin Substance Abuse Program said the substances have become the drugs of choice for active duty military personnel.
    The drugs contain manmade chemicals that mimic the effects of marijuana or methampetamines. The Office of National Drug Control Policy says on its website that the drugs pose significant psychological and physical health risks. Spice and bath salts are available in packaging that caters to children and can be purchased at convenience stores and liquor marts.
    Former Victorville resident Kimberly Plumley-Signorelli lost her son, Joseph Signorelli, who was 20 years old when he died from suicide on March 21 after going through withdrawals from spice. Plumley-Signorelli said family, friends and the community supported her as she wrote letters to supervisors and organized rallies to raise awareness, saying if she would have known about the side effects and symptoms of the drugs, her son’s life could have been saved.
    Signorelli’s sister Angelina Signorelli, 27, said “there are so many kids out there like my brother that think these drugs are safe, but they’re not.”
    In October, the Sheriff’s Department conducted a synthetic drugs operation. Deputies served notices at 21 businesses, warning them of the dangers of synthetic drugs. Deputies said five businesses voluntarily surrendered more than 170 packets of spice and the remaining 16 told deputies they would stop selling the substance.
    McMahon said he hopes to get more of this voluntary compliance as deputies continue to educate business owners and follow up with businesses that were contacted.
    Officials say two Victorville smoke shops have recently had synthetic drugs seized from their businesses as a result of follow-ups from the October operation. JP’s Liquor Store and Amargosa Smoke Shop and Mini Mart had 123 packages of spice seized on April 28, deputies said. My Generation Smoke Shop on Seventh Street had more than 200 packets of spice and one package of bath salts seized on May 19, according to deputies.
    “I’m so thankful (the ordinance) passed,” Plumley-Signorelli said. “It’s very bittersweet. It’s beautiful because I really feel that my son’s death is going to help save so many lives. I wish it didn’t have to be my son that died, but I believe now he had a higher purpose to help all of these other people.”
    Barstow and Adelanto already have citywide synthetic drug ordinances.
    Lovingood spokesman Don Holland said the ordinance will have a formal approval at the Board’s July 22 meeting and will become law 30 days later, on Aug. 21.
    Anneli Fogt can be reached at AFogt@VVDailyPress.com or 760-951-6276.
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