Verde Valley AZ (January 7, 2013) – Judge Michael Bluff of the Yavapai County Superior Court has granted final relief in Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk’s lawsuit seeking to permanently ban all known retailers from selling synthetic drugs in Yavapai County.
Late in the day on December 28, 2012, Judge Bluff signed a Permanent Injunction that declares the drugs, which go by the street names of “spice” and “bath salts,” to be a public nuisance. The Order bans all identified retailers and property landlords named in the lawsuit, and all persons acting in concert with them, from possessing, acquiring, selling or transferring the dangerous synthetic drugs. This permanent prohibition includes all synthetic cannabinoids and cathinones, and their analogues.
Of significance are the superior court’s findings that these drugs are dangerous and highly addictive, causing unpredictable, intense, violent and sometimes life-ending symptoms. The judge’s twelve-page ruling details the harm to the users, community members, and first responders, and the challenges to emergency room doctors faced with treating the consumers. Specifically, the judge noted a dramatic increase over the last eighteen months in patients needing emergency medical treatment, many of whom were often aggressive and violent toward those attempting to render assistance.
Efforts to permanently outlaw dangerous synthetic drugs began in August of 2012, when the Yavapai County Attorney’s Office successfully obtained an emergency temporary restraining order. The request was supported by over 100 affidavits from community members, hospitals, mental health care professionals, law enforcement officers, schools, probation officers and DEA agents detailing the harm, devastation, effects on the users and loss of life caused by these drugs.
In early September, after a three-day evidentiary hearing, Judge Bluff issued a Preliminary Injunction. Doctors from the Yavapai Regional Medical Center and the Verde Valley Medical Center testified at the hearing that the county’s emergency rooms were averaging 20 admissions per week of patients under the influence of the drugs.
“I am pleased with the successful outcome of a novel strategy to address these insidious drugs,” commented Polk. According to Polk, the Arizona legislature banned the original versions of spice and bath salts in 2011 and 2012. Because these drugs are synthetic, the manufacturers are able to quickly modify the chemical compounds to circumvent the laws. Under the permanent ban, the named retailers are banned from selling all adaptations and analogues of the drugs.
“I want to especially thank the agents and chemists at the DEA whose assistance was vital to our effort,” said Polk. “I also applaud the initiative of Scott Blake, a deputy prosecutor in our office, who came up with this unique approach.”
The Findings and Permanent Injunction by Judge Bluff have momentous weight. Those violating the Court’s ban can be charged criminally or found to be in contempt of the court, with incarceration as a consequence. Criminal charges were brought against Steven Wells, owner of the Island Store in Prescott, in November after an investigation found he was selling spice in violation of the Preliminary Injunction. A warrant for his arrest, based on an 18-count felony and misdemeanor criminal complaint, has been issued. Charges include Intent to Defraud by Selling any Drug or Hazardous Substance which is Adulterated or Misbranded, a class 5 felony, Disobeying a Lawful Order of the Superior Court, and Maintaining a Criminal Public Nuisance by selling synthetic cannabis.
The County Attorney recently turned her attention to another source of these drugs in the county, the internet. In December, the Office issued Cease and Desist Letters to all known Internet Sites selling the synthetic drugs. The Cease and Desist letters seek the voluntary cooperation of internet sellers, asking them to cease selling and distributing these drugs to residents and businesses in Yavapai County or face possible legal action. “Operation Internet Sellers” is phase three of Polk’s Public Nuisance Campaign against the harmful drugs.
A copy of the affidavits detailing the harm to the public, the injunctions banning sales, and other public documents can be found at the Yavapai County Attorney’s website at Court Pleadings Relating to Bath Salts Ban | Yavapai County Attorney’s Office. A copy of the Cease and Desist Letter to all known Internet Sellers of Synthetic Drugs is located on the website at http://www.yavapai.us/publicnotices/.
The Yavapai County Attorney’s Office asks that community members with information about any retailer or internet websites selling “bath salts” or “spice” to residents or businesses in Yavapai County contact the office at (928) 771-3344 and ask to speak to Maggie.