TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Shirley K. Turner (D – Mercer, Hunterdon) that would prohibit the manufacture, sale, or possession of synthetic marijuana cleared the full Senate today.
“No matter what name they are trying to be pushed on kids as, drugs are drugs,” said Turner. “These substances have the exact same effects as other illegal drugs, and should be treated as such. People will no longer be able to skirt the law by peddling these to our children.”
The bill, S1783, would add synthetic or man-made marijuana to the state’s list of Schedule 1 Controlled Dangerous Substances. That would make it subject to the highest level of state control. Manufacture, distribution, sale, or possession of synthetic marijuana would be a third-degree crime, subject to a fine of up to $25,000 and imprisonment for three to five years.
Synthetic marijuana is usually sold in small packets of approximately 500 milligrams to three grams, with commonly known names such as “Spice,” “K2,” “Blaze,” and “Red Dawn X.” Sometimes these designer drugs, man-made substances designed to mimic the effects of marijuana, are also labeled as incense or potpourri to evade law enforcement. Synthetic marijuana is sold in tobacco and smoke shops, drug paraphernalia shops, convenience stores, and over the Internet. Earlier this year, a shop in Lawrenceville and two shops in Mount Holly were busted for selling synthetic marijuana. In addition, this past July, six shops along the boardwalk in Wildwood and one in Rio Grande (Cape May County) were busted for selling synthetic marijuana.
Poison control centers and hospitals have reported an increase in patients who suffer from side effects due to usage of synthetic marijuana. The New Jersey Poison Education and Information System received 146 calls reporting the exposure to synthetic marijuana in 2011- a 711% increase from 2010. Serious side effects include: violent seizures, dangerously elevated heart rates, anxiety attacks, hallucinations, and death.
“If the events of this past year have shown us anything, it’s that these substances are out there and they are being purchased by children. Because of how they are marketed, young people might not even know how dangerous these substances are. We can take steps to protect them, starting with passage of this legislation,” added Turner.
The legislation would codify a temporary order issued by the Director of Consumer Affairs in February, 2012 by adding ten classes of chemicals that fall under the umbrella of synthetic cannabinoids to the list of prohibited Schedule I drugs. The temporary ban expires at the end of November.
The legislation now heads to the Assembly.