A 13-year-old Pennsylvania boy died Thursday from complications after smoking synthetic marijuana. It's the type of death Alabama officials are trying to prevent through a statewide ban of fake pot compounds.
But it seems the state is fighting an uphill battle against alternatives to illegal drugs. WAFF 48 News sent a photographer undercover to one Huntsville specialty shop. He did not find any of the banned synthetic marijuana products, but instead, found other products that are still legal, but mimic other types of illegal and prescription drugs.
The clerk identified the products as "herbal relaxers" that mimic the effects of Xanax, Adderall, ecstasy and Lorcets.
WAFF 48 News brought our concerns about these other products to State Senator Arthur Orr, R-3rd District. Orr is in the process of drafting a bill to ban current and future forms of synthetic marijuana for good.
"If we write the bill in a broad fashion, we'll not only get today's version, we'll get the future versions that may be out there that the chemists and the people peddling this stuff might try to create," he said.
As for the alternative products we got a hold of, Sen. Orr said there's a process that's followed to determine if they should be banned as well. It starts with notifying the local drug task force and ABC agents to check it out.
"And see if they're illegal or legal and if they're legal, is it something that we need to look at including in a ban and take action on, or is it something that perhaps ought to be permitted," Orr said.
But Deborah Soule, executive director of the Partnership for a Drug Free Community, said it's going to take more than law enforcement and the passage of bills to make sure illegal drugs and substances that mimic drugs stay out of kids' hands.
"They need to check on their kids," she said. "They need to be very disciplined about them because there's a lot of temptation going on outside, and kids are very open to experimentation. And that's why parents need to know."
Sen. Orr plans to introduce his bill in the next legislative session, which starts in January.