Wednesday, October 16, 2013

New County Law Seeks to Control Synthetic Marijuana

A new Maryland law that took effect Oct. 1 to criminalize possession of designer drugs sometimes referred to as "K2/Spice" or "synthetic marijuana” was detailed on Sept. 30 in Rockville. Among those attending were members of the Maryland General Assembly who worked to pass the law, Montgomery County Councilmember George Leventhal, State’s Attorney John McCarthy, representatives of the County Police Department and members of the Eichler family that has been tragically affected by synthetic marijuana.

Also attending the event were State Senator Jamie Raskin and State Delegates Sheila Hixson and Craig Zucker, all from Montgomery County. Susie Sinclair Smith of the Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless and Carol Walsh of the County Collaboration Council for Children, Youth & Families also were present to explain how synthetic marijuana has affected people with whom they work directly.

Montgomery County Police and State's Attorney McCarthy have sent a letter to all retailers in Montgomery County informing them about the new law.

During its 2013 session, the Maryland General Assembly passed a law outlawing the sale or possession of the major chemical components of synthetic marijuana, classifying them as controlled substances. The products have been sold in smoke specialty shops and neighborhood convenience stores and, in some cases, were available for purchase with no age restrictions. Many of the products were sold in packages aimed at young users.

Prior to 2010, synthetic marijuana was not controlled by any state or by the federal government. Since then, states around the nation have moved to pass laws to criminalize possession of the drug.

Despite its name as “synthetic,” the product is made with natural herbs that are sprayed with synthetic chemicals. When consumed, it mimics the effects of regular marijuana. However, the chemical aspect of synthetic marijuana has sent many people to hospital emergency rooms, and in some cases, led to deaths.

“One reason that synthetic drugs are extremely dangerous is that buyers don’t know what chemicals they are ingesting,” said Councilmember Leventhal, who chairs the Council’s Health and Human Services Committee. “Individual products can contain a vast range of different chemical formulations and potencies. Outlawing the possession of synthetic marijuana is the first major step. Now we must make sure retailers who may have been selling the products, young people who have been using it and parents are aware of its dangers.”

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