By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
RALEIGH — K2, Spice, fake pot — the names for synthetic marijuana may vary, but the concern over the product is growing both nationwide and in the Tar Heel state where several lawmakers may introduce legislation as early as late next week to ban the controversial substance.
Representative elect Craig Horn (R-Union) said Wednesday that he began researching Spice drugs after receiving a call from a constituent in Waxhaw who was concerned about the foil packets of chemical-laced herbs which are openly sold as incense but smoked like marijuana.
“The more I read the more strongly I felt about the need to move quickly to ban this entire family of cannabinoids,” Horn said, adding that he has worked closely with law enforcement personnel and chemists to ensure that the wording of the bill he’s proposing — one that would make synthetic cannabis a controlled substance and therefore illegal to possess, manufacture or sell — “is not only proper but will hold up in court under appeal.”
The Christian Action League reported on the issue in early November, calling on lawmakers to move forward with a ban in the coming session. Sen. Harry Brown (R-Onslow) had introduced a joint resolution on the matter last summer. And Rep. George Cleveland (R-Onslow) and Sen. William Purcell (D-Scotland) have also been researching it.
Nationally, the Drug Enforcement Agency weighed in in late November saying the drugs can cause hallucinations, agitation, anxiety, vomiting, accelerated heart rate, elevated blood pressure, seizures and non-responsiveness and announcing its plan to implement an emergency year-long ban on five key chemicals used to produce Spice. But the organization’s efforts have been thwarted by lawsuits from retailers, so the ban hasn’t been put into effect. Meanwhile some 16 states have passed their own bans as has the Armed Forces.
“I found that ALL branches of the United States military had already banned it as have several states in the U.S. and several countries around the world,” Horn said.
In fact, any store that sells the substance is considered off-limits for soldiers, who can be punished under the Uniform Code of Military Justice if they are caught with Spice.
Although its popularity is attributed in part to the fact that, unlike real marijuana, it does not show up in routine drug tests, Fort Bragg announced late last fall that is testing specifically for synthetic marijuana.
“We have the capacity to conduct tests for the Spice drug at the request of a unit commander ” a Fort Bragg spokesman told the media.
As the word about Spice, sold online, at tobacco shops or in convenience stores for $3 to $40 a gram , has spread, the number of reported medical problems due to its use has risen. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, the number of K2-related calls jumped from 15 in 2009 to more than 1,500 last year. Many users are arriving at hospitals with a range of symptoms that point to potential cardiovascular and central nervous system problems.
“This is one of the many truly disturbing aspects of this stuff. These compounds used to make Spice were created only for research and have never been tested on humans, so users have no idea what exact chemicals they are taking in or what those substances will do to them,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “We urge parents to make sure their children don’t get caught up in this and lawmakers to make a ban one of their many priorities this session.”
Horn said he is continuing to circulate his bill to law enforcement, district attorneys, and public interest groups to ensure “that we have properly, sufficiently and legally addressed this issue to the best of our ability” and that he expects the North Carolina General Assembly to give it quick approval despite the fact that members will be occupied with urgent fiscal matters.
“We are about to get down to the serious business of confronting a terrible budget year in North Carolina. Many important issues will be set aside whilst we deal with the $3.7 billion shortfall,” Horn said. “We cannot let our families, our children and our communities down by not paying attention to the potholes along the road and not providing leadership and solid moral direction in our state.”