La., Texas united against synthetic marijuana sales

December 9, 2010 at 2:39 am

In the war on drugs, Texas and Louisiana continue to maintain a united front.

On Wednesday, about 40 officers and prosecutors met in Lake Charles to discuss how to combat the latest issue in their areas: synthetic marijuana.

District Attorney John DeRosier said about 30 stores in Calcasieu Parish sell the products — an herbs-and-spices mixture sprayed with chemicals that mimic THC, the main active ingredient in marijuana.

“They are marketed as incense, but kids and young adults are smoking it to get high,” DeRosier said.

Louisiana passed legislation in June 2009 that outlawed the five main chemicals used in the substance, but within in a month, companies switched out one or two compounds to circumvent the law, DeRosier said.

“After meeting today, we think we have crafted language that would ban all synthetic cannabinoids that they are coming out with,” he said.

Jefferson County (Texas) Sheriff Mitch Woods said the goal is to get legislation passed in both states around the same time. The Louisiana and Texas legislatures will go into session in April and January.

“This synthetic marijuana came up in the last year or so, and it’s just become a severe problem nationwide,” said Woods, whose jurisdiction includes Beaumont and Port Arthur.

He said there is a lot unknown about the effects on users of the synthetic marijuana, which is packaged under titles like Night Fire, Spice and K2. The herbs are usually sold in one-gram packs for $20 to $40.

“In the last two months, we had a young man whose death was attributed to the synthetic marijuana,” Woods said.

On Aug. 6, Dallas teen Dominique Tate, 19, reportedly died after witnesses said he smoked a large amount of K2.

“He passed out, and they put him to bed. The next day they took him to the hospital, where he died,” Woods said.

DeRosier said Calcasieu deputies have stopped impaired drivers who admitted smoking the synthetic marijuana.

In Harris County, Texas, home to Houston, District Attorney Patricia Lykos said federal intervention may be necessary.

“These drugs are brought in by foreign chemical companies mainly in India and China, and the state department needs to put pressure on them,” she said.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, 15 states have tried to control the chemicals. The DEA — in response to the substance’s changing composition — announced it would use its emergency scheduling authority to classify the five chemicals as Schedule I drugs.

This would make possessing and selling the chemicals illegal for at least a year. During that time, the Department of Health and Human Services would look into whether the chemicals should be permanently controlled.

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