The Sheriffs Star Summer 2011 : Page 1
PUBLISHED BY THE FLORIDA SHERIFFS ASSOCIATION • SUMMER 2011 Bay County Sheri Frank McKeithen Leads Charge Against Dangerous Bath was a dramatic moment worthy of the occasion. Salts It Attorney General Pam Bondi pointed straight to Bay County Sheri Frank McKeithen and said, “Thanks to this man right here, this substance is o the streets .” This “substance” is what is commonly known as “bath salts,” powerful chemicals that create a high similar to that of cocaine, methamphetamine or PCP. Attorney General Bondi said that the substance, which has no connection to the traditional salts used in bathtubs, was “killing our kids.” continued on page 4
Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen Leads Charge Against
Dangerous Bath Salts
It was a dramatic moment worthy of the occasion.
Attorney General Pam Bondi pointed straight to Bay County Sheri Frank McKeithen and said, “Thanks to this man right here, this substance is o the streets .”
This “substance” is what is commonly known as “bath salts,” powerful chemicals that create a high similar to that of cocaine, methamphetamine or PCP.
Attorney General Bondi said that the substance, which has no connection to the traditional salts used in bathtubs, was “killing our kids.”
Thanks to Sheri McKeithen and the influential supporters he recruited to the cause, the substance is no longer legal and has disappeared from the shelves that once openly stocked it.
The event that culminated the Sheri ’s six-month crusade was a bill signing at the Bay County Sheri s O ce in which Gov. Rick Scott signed the law that permanently outlawed the sale, possession and use of the synthetic drug.
In addition to the Attorney General and Sheri McKeithen, the Governor was joined by State Reps. Jimmy Patronis (sponsor of House Bill 1039) and Jimmie Smith, and a number of law enforcement leaders including Okaloosa County Sheri Larry Ashley, Washington County Sheri Bobby Haddock and Calhoun County Sheri David Tatum.
Attorney General Bondi said it was Sheri McKeithen who brought the issue to her attention.
“He contacted me and said, ‘What can we do? This is a horrible, horrible problem in the Panhandle,’” Bondi said at the bill signing. “This is killing our kids, and the Sheri was the first one to catch onto it. He saw what a problem it was, and now since his action, I contacted Alabama and other states and now they are looking into it. And now of course, they have federal legislation. Because of the Sheri , all of this got started.”
Governor Scott also praised Sheri McKeithen for his proactive approach to a problem that was addressed before widespread problems occurred.
“As you know, the Sheri started this process here (in Bay County) and we got ahead of something,” Governor Scott said. “Bath salts are a significant risk to health and public safety to Floridians. This law will give law enforcement The tools necessary to take these dangerous substances o the shelves. Doing so will make our communities safer for all Floridians and our visitors.”
Bath salts contain chemicals such as Methylone, MDPV and Mephedrone, which have the potential to overburden law enforcement and medical resources with patients that exhibit psychotic and life-threatening conditions. The drug is known to produce increased heart rate, delusions, super-human strength and extreme paranoia.
These substances were found for sale at shops that frequently sell drug paraphernalia, and at certain convenience stores. It was found that these substances were not controlled by Florida Statutes, and were legal to possess and sell.
With 200,000 students headed to Panama City for spring break in a few short months, Sheri McKeithen feared a “perfect storm” of unlimited access to dangerous legal drugs and way too many students looking for a good time without the fear of breaking the law. He knew he had to do something. So he wrote and hand delivered letters to every establishment he knew was selling bath salts asking them to voluntarily stop selling the dangerous substances – and he made a call to the Attorney General.
Attorney General Bondi responded to the Sheri ’s pleas on January 26, 2011,with an emergency rule that made baths salts a Schedule I substance which gave lawenforcement authorities “the essential legal tool they need – a felony charge – to arrest, prosecute and incarcerate persons who manufacture and peddle this dangerous substance.”
The emergency rule would have expired June 30, 2011, if the Legislature had not taken action. Fortunately, they did.
“I’m humbled by the swift action from our government, local and statewide, to ban this Deadly substance,” Representative Patronis said. “I also want to thank Bay County Sheri Frank McKeithen and Attorney General Bondi for their leadership on passing this legislation.”
“For several months, we saw a sense of urgency with something that was happening in our county,” Sheri McKeithen said. “And because of the work of our Representatives, our Attorney General and our Governor, we actually got ahead of something. I think we beat this one.”
It all started with a single Sheri who saw that something was wrong and would not stop fighting until it was made right. There certainly will be more battles to fight, but this time it seems the good guys won.