Sat, Dec 17 2011 12:00 PM Posted By: Allison K. Sampité
The Chula Vista City Council voted unanimously to support a resolution supporting statewide legislation to criminalize possession of psychoactive herbal incense and bath salts.
The resolution follows a Nov. 1 decision to enact an emergency ordinance that placed limits on the distribution of synthetic drugs in the city.
Deputy City Attorney Chance Hawkins said Tuesday that the greatest challenge to enforcing a local criminal law is the issue of adequate scientific testing. Without testing to detect numerous compounds contained in synthetic drugs, criminalizing personal possession now would not be effective.
Hawkins said that since November, 100 new compounds have been found.
Instead, the City Attorney’s Office developed a confiscation model for its police officers as the quickest way to resolve the possession issue.
Confiscation protocol would be dependent on officer discretion in the field and only occur under specific circumstances.
The Public Safety Subcommittee, comprised of Councilman Steve Castaneda and Councilwoman Patricia Aguilar, endorsed this recommendation Nov. 30.
In order to be most effective, possession laws are usually coupled with laws regarding “under the influence.” In order to prove someone is under the influence of synthetic drugs, both solid-dose analysis and blood or urine analysis is needed, which the San Diego Sheriff’s crime lab is not capable of doing.
Significant support and guidance on this issue has been continually provided by the founders of People Against Smoking Spice (PASS) since May.
William Perno and Eliza Cardin have since spent hundreds of hours volunteering in the community giving numerous presentations throughout the cities of Chula Vista, National City and San Diego on the dangers of synthetic drugs.
Perno said that an actual ban on possession would close any loopholes and urged the council to look at local control.
“We know there will be very strong opposition for the possession ban in California,” he said. “We need to take steps for local measures.”
Chula Vista Police Lt. Roxana Kennedy said the city currently has 100 percent compliance from retailers in the city to not sell synthetic substances.
Perno said the synthetic drug problem is not going away.
“We’re at the tip of the iceberg,” he said. “We need some accountability.”
The District Attorney’s office does not have the resources, time or money to fight a criminal ban for possession of synthetic drugs.
“We shouldn’t wait and see what the state’s going to do,” Councilman Rudy Ramirez said. “We need to be able to say we’ve done everything we can do from keeping this problem from getting out of control … I’d like to bring this back in 30 days.”
In other city council news the city council approved an agreement with The Third Avenue Village Association (TAVA), for the maintenance of street improvements, signage and other treatments as a part of the city’s master plan.
The final design for the streetscape master plan was approved by council March 22 and has since been scaled down from H to E Street to about half due to lack of money available.
Phase one improvements would have been completed in November and included shorter crossings and improved pedestrian and multi-modal accessibility, more open sidewalks for outdoor dining, energy efficient pedestrian lighting, street trees and new seating.
Assistant City Manager Gary Halbert said the city was approximately $500,000 off from what it initially estimated with regard to the lowest bid it received over the summer.
“It seems like every time we hear this issue it gets whittled down,” Castaneda said. “It’s pretty discouraging. I just want to make sure that you know what you’re getting into and you haven’t bitten off more than you can chew.”
Halbert’s recommendation to council was to first see if there is an opportunity to work with the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), to get a second round of smart growth money and if not, wait for Jan. 15 to see if redevelopment funds are available after the state supreme court takes action.
© 2009 The Star-News