Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Editorials

August 7, 2012

Synthetic pot Aggressive approach welcomed

The aggressive approach law enforcement officials in Southwest Virginia are taking against the emerging threat of synthetic marijuana is necessary and welcomed.

Synthetic marijuana started appearing in Tazewell County about four years ago, according to  Commonwealth Attorney Dennis Lee. It was sold by several convenience stores under names such as K2 and Spice. The packages were marked “Not For Human Consumption” and sold as incense.

However, those marketing labels are a sham, according to Lee. What is being sold instead is an untested synthetic drug, which is supposed to mirror the effects of marijuana.

The substance is sold in small packets under a variety of names such as “Kronic” and “White Rhino.”

“Basically, they are untested, they are dangerous, the effects are widely varied, and throughout the United States we saw emergency rooms starting to fill up with people suffering the effects of these drugs before it was made illegal in Virginia and finally the United States,” Lee said last week.

Users of the synthetic pot have experienced adverse reactions such as panic, paranoia, psychosis, racing heart rates, and in some instances, fatal overdoses.

Makers of synthetic marijuana would often change their products’ formulas slightly so they did not fall under the law, but a new law that started July 1 closes that loophole, Lee said. The new law applies if the substance is designed to emulate the effects of marijuana.

Possessing synthetic marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable with up to 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine. To sell, distribute or possess with the intent to distribute synthetic marijuana is a felony punishable with up to five years in prison and a $2,500 fine.

A business person who sells synthetic marijuana will face fines, imprisonment and the possible loss of their business, Lee said.

Officers with the Tazewell County Narcotics Task Force and local law enforcement agencies will visit all of the county’s merchants next week and distribute a letter explaining changes in the law.

Local merchants would be wise to take notice of the warning, and the new law that took effect July 1. Tazewell County’s approach is another welcomed example of Virginia’s aggressive war on drugs.

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