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Informer: Bill would revise synthetic-marijuana law

Last Modified: Sunday, May 12, 2013 12:01 AM

By Andrew Perzo / American Press

My beautiful 18-year-old granddaughter is now in rehab after using synthetic marijuana. My question is, why is it so easy for these teens to get this?

It is available in convenience stores in our area and smoke shops. These teens think it is harmless since it is so readily available. It can cause all kinds of brain problems, reasoning problems, hallucinations, etc.

I would like to know the exact law on whether this drug is illegal. A convenience store on Country Club Road actually has it in full view.

Synthetic marijuana, which goes by several names, including K2 and spice, first surfaced in the Lake Area about five years ago. The Legislature outlawed it in 2010, adding a list of synthetic cannabinoid compounds to the illegal-drug schedule.

But by the time the law hit the books, said Lt. Gene Pittman, director of the parish’s Combined Anti-Drug Task Force, manufacturers had “beat us to the punch” and tweaked their formulas.

The statute, which listed fewer than a half-dozen specific compounds, was too narrow, so Calcasieu Parish District Attorney John DeRosier began pushing for a broader approach, Pittman said.

DeRosier said he and Greg Riley, who drafts legislation for the state House, met in Lake Charles with law enforcement officials, lab professionals and prosecutors from both Louisiana and Texas in 2010 to discuss plans to draft legislation to target families of synthetic cannabinoids rather than individual compounds.

In 2011, the Legislature increased the scope of the law’s coverage, adding to the drug schedule eight families of synthetic cannabinoids. Two more listings were added in 2012, and a bill now making its way through the Legislature would lengthen it even more, to 14 families of the drug.

The proposed list:

Naphthoylindoles

Naphthylmethylindoles

Naphthoylpyrroles

Naphthylmethylindenes

Phenylacetylindoles

Cyclohexylphenols

Benzoylindoles

Tetrahydrodibenzopyrans

Hexahydrodibenzopyrans

Cyclopropanoylindoles

Adamantoylindoles

Naphthylamidoindoles

Quinolinylindolecarboxylates

Adamantylamidoindoles

Sgt. Gary Sonnier, assistant director of the drug task force, said authorities find synthetic marijuana in people’s possession every day. But he and Pittman said that the reader’s claim is the first they’ve heard of an in-store display since 2011.

According to a U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration report released earlier this year, emergency room visits related to use of synthetic marijuana rose 150 percent between 2009 and 2011.

“The rate of visits involving synthetic cannabinoids was highest among patients aged 18 to 20 (60.8 visits per 100,000 population), followed by patients aged 12 to 17 (30.2 visits per 100,000 population),” reads the report, a product of the Drug Abuse Warning Network.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, synthetic cannabinoids can cause giddiness, panic attacks and paranoia.

“Physiological effects of K2 include increased heart rate and increase of blood pressure,” reads a DEA fact sheet. “It appears to be stored in the body for long periods of time, and therefore the long-term effects on humans are not fully known.”

Online: www.legis.la.gov; www.samhsa.gov; www.dea.gov.

• • •

The Informer answers questions from readers each Sunday, Monday and Wednesday. It is researched and written by Andrew Perzo, an American Press staff writer. To ask a question, call 494-4098, press 5 and leave voice mail, or email informer@americanpress.com

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