Emergency order makes synthetic marijuana illegal

MONTGOMERY, AL (WAFF) - Governor Robert Bentley and State Health Officer Dr. Donald Williamson announced that marijuana-like products sold under street names such as "Spice" and "K2" are being banned by emergency order.

The substances typically found in synthetic marijuana will be placed under Schedule I of the Alabama Controlled Substances List beginning October 24th.

The Alabama Department of Public Health heard testimony at a public hearing on September 19th on concerns about synthetic marijuana products. These psychoactive herbal and chemical substances have been sold in a variety of stores and marketed online as herbal incense or potpourri.

"These substances have been wrongly presented as a safe and legal alternative to marijuana," Dr. Williamson said. "By supporting regulations outlawing their possession and sale, we want the public to be aware of the toxic effects and other dangers associated with synthetic marijuana use."

At the urging of law enforcement and Alabama's district attorneys, State Sen. Arthur Orr of Decatur and Rep. Allen Farley of Birmingham are sponsoring a bill in the legislature to prohibit the manufacture and sale of synthetic marijuana compounds in different variations. Under the proposed bill, the sale and possession of these substances would constitute felonies.

Since October 2010, the Regional Poison Control Center at Children's of Alabama reports receiving 101 calls from people exposed to "K2" or "Spice." Three victims were children 6 to 12 years of age, 35 were teenagers and 32 were in their 20s. Symptoms they experienced were classified as follows: neurological, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, respiratory, dermal and ocular.

While the "high" for synthetic marijuana may last no more than 15 to 20 minutes, users can experience the chronic side effects for weeks. Adverse medical side effects of its use are not fully known, but include the following:

  • Anxiety attacks
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Increased heart rate and rapid pulse
  • Paranoia
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Aggression and uncontrollable rage
  • Agitation
  • Addiction
  • Severe depression

Twenty-four substances were placed under emergency control. In February 2011, two other dangerous chemicals which were being marketed as "bath salts" were added to the Alabama Controlled Substances List, which made possession, manufacture or distribution of these substances illegal. The synthetic marijuana compound found in products such as "Spice" and "K2" is a different but still harmful substance.

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