The fight to eradicate dangerous synthetic drugs across the state of Florida continues in full force, with the Panhandle leading the charge.
In a joint news conference on Wednesday, Sheriffs from Bay, Walton and Okaloosa Counties pledged "zero tolerance" for what they call "poison" being sold to our youth.
In a public statement that packed a punch, over 1 million dollars in seized drug paraphernalia was obliterated under the crushing weight of a steamroller.
The visual commitment by a joint task force of panhandle sheriffs kicked off a statewide "Dry Spring" initiative, promising to "crush" the sell and the use of synthetic drugs.
"Tolerance is permission and we will no longer give permission through inaction to continue selling this poison to our kids," said Okaloosa County Sheriff, Larry Ashley.
As millions descend on our area this Spring Break, Ashley, along with Walton County Sheriff, Mike Adkinson, and Bay County Sheriff, Frank McKeithen, presented a united front.
"The last thing we need to do is combine alcohol, synthetic drugs and the party atmosphere of Spring Break where our kids are placed in greater danger," said Ashley.
In March of last year, Governor Rick Scott signed into law HB1175, deeming synthetic substances a significant threat, with Attorney General, Pam Bondi outlawing over 20 substances.
Yet, drug makers continue to change formulas and, in effect, skirt the law.
"It's almost like cancer. About the time you think you have it cured, something else pops up," said Bay County Sheriff, Frank McKeithen.
They all agreed this initiative is both necessary and life saving.
"We are going to be completely zero tolerance in dealing with this issue and completely proactive," said Walton County Sheriff, Mike Adkinson.
In addition to ramping up visibility across the tri-county area, this Panhandle force is asking businesses to pledge never to sell these drugs; if you do, it's at your own risk.
"We will put you out of business and in jail if you continue to sell this poison to our kids," said Ashley.
The Sheriffs said the drugs have been linked to over 7000 hospital visits and nine deaths in Florida.