San Diego city leaders are sounding the alarm on spice, a synthetic drug that proved deadly in the community as its use on the streets escalates.
Locally, incidents involving spice – including overdoses and reactions to the drug that require emergency medical attention – are happening at an exponential rate.
The Clean and Safe program logged 161 Spice incidents in San Diego from January to March 2016. That’s a 500 percent increase compared to incidents involving the synthetic drug in San Diego in the last three months of 2015.
“That kind of explosion in the community says something bad is happening,” San Diego City Councilman Todd Gloria told NBC 7 on Wednesday.
The spike in spice use sent San Diego's Emergency Medical Services responding to 866 spice incidents from March 2015 to February 2016. Many of those overdoses were on the streets of downtown San Diego.
The drug isn’t only dangerous. It has also cost taxpayers approximately $2.4 million. Now, city leaders are drafting a new, flexible ordinance to help keep up with drug makers trying to stay ahead of the law.
Gloria is a strong supporter of that ordinance. He’s urging the San Diego Police Department (SDPD) and the City Attorney's Office to fast-track the ordinance to combat the spice overdoses.
“Every day we wait are more days where neighborhood tax payers and resources are wasted doing medical response calls, and of course, more lives are at risk,” Gloria explained.
Many downtown residents and business also support the move, hoping that taking spice off the streets will make their community safer.
“It’s very bad for the clients that walk around,” explained Allana Zelitsky, who works downtown. “For people who work here and around here, it has to be taken out.”
Currently, it is illegal to sell synthetic drugs in California if they contain one of several banned substances.
The proposed ordinance, according to City Attorney spokesman Gerry Braun, would combine the state's list of illegal substances with the federal list that's more extensive.
It would also allow the San Diego City Council to fast-track making substances illegal to keep up with spice dealers who often change their recipes to circumvent the law.
“Our neighborhoods can’t wait, our businesses can’t wait, our public safety and emergency response folks can’t wait,” said Gloria. “We need some action now.”
Braun says the ordinance should be presented to the council by this summer.