By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
RALEIGH — It took less than 10 minutes for North Carolina Senators to give their unanimous stamp of approval Thursday to bills that would ban both mephedrone and synthetic marijuana. But Sen. Harry Brown (R-Onslow) pointed out that these dangerous substances had been on the minds of a number of lawmakers for “the past year or so” as they gained popularity and as bill writers worked through the process of creating legislation to deal with a sometimes moving target.
“Senators (Peter) Brunstetter, (Richard) Stevens, (Stan) Bingham, (Don) Vaughan, and (Floyd) McKissick all had some interest in this bill,” Brown said. “We’ve tried to work together. and I think we’ve come up with two bills that I think everyone has agreed on.”
Senate Bill 7, approved without debate, would make mephedrone, a fake ecstasy-type drug referred to as “m-cat” “meow-meow,” “bubbles” and by other names, a Schedule I substance beginning Dec. 1. Often sold as plant food or bath salts, mephedrone can be snorted or swallowed. The synthetic stimulant amphetamine, which users say produces heightened alertness and euphoria, can also bring on anxiety, paranoia, seizures, high blood pressure and rapid heart rate as well as nose bleeds, vomiting, hallucinations and circulation problems. It has led to more than 250 calls to U.S. Poison Control Centers already this year.
A more common designer drug, synthetic marijuana has also sent more than a few users to the emergency room with hallucinations, severe agitation, elevated heart rate, high blood pressure, vomiting, tremors, seizures and other symptoms. Sold at convenience stores and tobacco shops under the names K2, Spice, etc., and marketed as incense, it would become a Schedule 6 Controlled Substance under Senate Bill 9.
“This bill has been a little more complicated because these synthetic cannibanoids have been around for a little while and … have been disguised … as this drug has progressed,” Brown told fellow Senators. “It has been renamed, repackaged. They’ve tried to get it on the market any way you can think of. So it’s been a little more difficult trying to put our hands around it, but I think we’ve done so with this bill.”
If the House agrees, possession of synthetic cannabis (herbs treated with a chemical compound similar to THC) will become a misdemeanor, with possession of more than 1.5 ounces a Class I felony. Under the proposed law, as of April 1, anyone caught with more than 35 grams could be charged with trafficking, sentenced to 70 months in prison and fined $50,000.
Sen. Floyd McKissick (D-Durham), spoke in favor of the bill, which he co-sponsored with Brown.
“This is a bill that is desperately needed. It’s impacting young people throughout our state in a very profound and significant way,” he said, adding that the bill was balanced in that it makes simple possession of a small amount a misdemeanor and trafficking a more serious offense.
North Carolina joins seven other states that are working this year to ban mephedrone and synthetic cannibinoids. Seventeen states have already done so.
“We’re glad to see the Senate make quick work of these proposed bans and hope the House will follow suit,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “Some will say that those who abuse drugs will just move on to the next best thing to get high and we admit that some will. But the more we can limit access to these harmful substances, the better we can protect the health of North Carolina residents. And these drugs have no redeeming qualities. They are dangerous legal recreational drugs that need to be off the market.”