From the Rhode Island General Assembly news bureau:
With Rhode Island teenagers becoming increasingly aware of emerging forms of legal synthetic drugs, Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D – Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston) is in the process of drafting a bill that would prevent manufacturers from circumventing the intent of the federal law banning specific synthetic drugs from the market.
“Bath salts and synthetic cannabis have now become a real problem for our law enforcement and our emergency room doctors in the last few months,” said Representative McNamara, who is also the chairman of the House Committee on Health, Education and Wellness. “Here you have an easily accessible substance that can have serious consequences for the mental and physical health of our young people in this state. As the director of the Alternative Learning Program in Pawtucket, I’ve seen it happen with my own eyes. I’ve seen a likeable, social student go from a future full of prospects fall into a very dark place because of synthetic drug use. The student was never the same. I can tell you the outcome can be devastating, especially for individuals who might have a predisposition for a psychotic break or mental illness. Kids are smoking synthetic pot and expecting to get high, but in reality they’re exposing themselves to a lot more damage.”
Borrowing from a bill (2012-H 7087) he cosponsored last year, Representative McNamara is looking to combine last session’s proposal to add “hallucinogenic drugs Salvinorin A or Divinorin A, gypsum weed or jimsom weed and synthetic marijuana to the RI Controlled Substances Act Schedule I” with a 2011 New Jersey statute that extends the list of synthetic substances to accommodate newly reconfigured drugs, namely bath salts and synthetic cannabis.
In a letter to Rhode Island Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin, Representative McNamara calls the introduction of the latest forms of synthetic cannabis “a new frontier of legal substance abuse.” The representative has also contacted Dr. Michael Fine, director of the state Department of Health, to discuss the emerging threat and the creation of a bill that could crack down on smoking synthetic drugs.
Synthetic pot is known by several aliases, including “K2,” “Spice” and “Monkey Weed.” In July 2012, President Barack Obama signed into law a federal ban on bath salts and synthetic cannabis, including altered chemical compounds that produce similar effects to those substances. Many of these substances are easily available as herbal incense, potpourri or “botanical sachet” in places like convenience stores and gas stations. Legal synthetic drugs differ from potpourri in home décor stores in the way it is packaged. Typically, synthetic cannabinoids are sold by the ounce or gram in small, often attractive packaging. Retailers have also found ways to meet the demand for synthetic drugs by selling them with cigarettes and other smoking products, despite fine print labels warning consumers that the substance is not meant to be smoked.
Unlike the substance that it attempts to mimic, synthetic cannabinoids have been known to agitate some people to the point where they become violent or delirious. It has also been known to cause high blood pressure, vomiting, serious health complications and even death.
“Media reports have informed us that this is becoming a more prevalent problem among our youth in Rhode Island by the sheer number of emergency room visits and police reports involving suspected use of these types of drugs,” Representative McNamara said. “The companies that make bath salts and synthetic marijuana have already found ways to go around the federal law by changing the molecular structure of their products. What is more concerning is that a lot of the time, people purchase these substances and have no way of knowing what is in them. A law in Rhode Island like the one in New Jersey would give law enforcement the tools they need to crack down on synthetic drug use and protect our children.”
The representative expects to file the bill prior to the beginning of the legislative session in January.