TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Shirley K. Turner (D – Mercer, Hunterdon) that would prohibit the manufacture, sale, or possession of synthetic marijuana received final legislative approval today and now heads to the Governor’s desk.
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. Manufacturing, 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.
“We need to keep our laws up to date by ensuring that synthetic drugs being manufactured are added to the list of banned substances,” said Turner. “These drugs are meant to mimic other illegal substances, but they have serious side effects. They have no business being on store shelves where they can be easily accessible to children.”
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. Last 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 percent 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 an order issued by the Director of Consumer Affairs in February of 2012 by adding ten classes of chemicals that fall under the umbrella of synthetic cannabinoids to the list of prohibited Schedule I drugs.
The bill was approved today by the General Assembly with a vote of 73-1. It passed the Senate in October with a vote of 39-0.