Grand jury recommends new law to fight flakka

Over 60 flakka-related incidents in Broward County since September 2014

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel is working with community leaders to combat the drug that he calls "$5 insanity."
Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel is working with community leaders to combat the drug that he calls "$5 insanity."

BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. – A grand jury concluded Monday that more treatment resources, more research and better education are needed to fight the illegal street-drug flakka and other synthetic drugs in Broward County.

There were 61 flakka-related deaths in Broward County from September 2014 to mid-December 2015, grand jurors found.

During that period, the behavior of flakka users has been "frightening, dangerous and deadly," according to the Grand Jury report released Monday. The easily obtained drug gives users "superhuman strength," often coupled with hallucinations, delusions, aggressiveness and violence.

The report cited two separate instances in which two flakka users tried to break into the Fort Lauderdale Police Department as they fled imaginary pursuers.

Twenty-one witnesses, including paramedics, police officers, physicians and drug experts, testified before the grand jury over several months last fall. The jury's report is 68 pages long.

"Synthetic drugs are greatly impacting our police, EMS, hospital emergency rooms and drug rehabilitation facilities," said Broward State Attorney Mike Satz. "The grand jury's report defines what a problem these drugs have become and provides solid suggestions to address this grave situation in our community."

Besides flakka, technically called alpha-PVP, the grand jury examined earlier generations of synthetic drugs. Those included synthetic cathinones like "molly," synthetic cannabinoids like fake marijuana and synthetic opiates that imitate heroin.

The synthetic drugs are often sold as herbal incense, bath salts, plant food and jewelry cleaner, and labeled "not for  human consumption."

When the chemical combination of one drug is declared illegal, drug dealers' clandestine chemists change the formula just enough to make it technically legal, the report found. The grand jury said the Legislature needs to catch up and outlaw the latest poison being distributed.

Among its suggestions to address the synthetic drug problem, the grand jury called for passage of a law in Florida that would regulate the entire class of synthetic drugs, not just the molecular structure of a particular synthetic drug. A similar law is in effect in at least 32 other states.