Recently, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services inspectors seized 653 packages of tianeptine, commonly referred to as “gas station heroin,” and 1,272 packages of THC-O after a multi-day inspection sweep of over 50 businesses in 27 Florida counties. Inspectors found tianeptine at stores in Lee County and Orange County and THC-O products in Clay, Highlands, Hillsborough, Leon, Miami-Dade, Pasco, Polk, and Seminole counties.
Later, the department’s Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement and Division of Food Safety seized and destroyed approximately 5,000 pounds of raw and packaged tianeptine and THC-O from four Florida distribution facilities located in Cape Coral, Fort Myers, and Tampa.
Many of the effects of tianeptine imitate those of opioids, including its toxicity, dependence, and withdrawal symptoms. It is unapproved and unregulated in the United States because of its dangerous risks. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), tianeptine is unsafe and should not be used for any reason, including as medication. Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody filed an emergency rule in September 2023 that prohibited the sale of tianeptine, or “gas station heroin,” in Florida.
While THC is commonly found in hemp, THC-O can only be created synthetically often using chemicals that are closely associated with plastics, fibers, pharmaceuticals, and even explosives. THC-O is categorized as a controlled substance under federal and state law, §893.03(1)(c)190, Florida Statutes. There are no FDA regulatory standards related to THC-O right now. The drug has a high potential for abuse and has been shown to cause some serious side effects, such as anxiety, dizziness, paranoia, nausea, vomiting, and in some cases seizures.
“We will relentlessly pursue and use the full force of the law to combat the proliferation of narcotics and illicit substances that continue to be found across Florida,” said Commissioner Wilton Simpson. “Thanks to coordination with local and state partners, as well as the Florida Legislature, we are protecting our communities, particularly our children, from these dangerous products.”
The department seized over 1,700 illegal hemp, THC-O, and Amanita Muscaria mushroom products from a South Florida business in September.
During the 2023 Legislative Session, Commissioner Wilton Simpson worked with Senator Colleen Burton and Representative Will Robinson to reform Florida’s food laws to better protect consumers and children. SB 1676 added age requirements for the purchase of hemp products intended for human consumption, protected Florida’s minors by prohibiting marketing that targets children, protects consumers by mandating that products sold in Florida be packaged in a safe container, and holds hemp products that are ingested to the same health and safety standards as other food products.
To enforce these law changes, the department conducted the largest ever inspection sweep of businesses selling products that contain hemp extracts in July and August. The statewide inspection sweeps specifically targeted the sale of hemp extract products that are attractive and/or marketed to children, which is prohibited by Florida law. The sweep included inspections of more than 700 businesses in all 67 Florida counties and uncovered over 83,000 packages of hemp extract products, including euphoric, high-potency THC products, targeting children. Since July 1, the department has uncovered over 98,000 packages of hemp extract products targeting children.