Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

January 25, 2012

County bans synthetic marijuana

Glasgow Daily Times

GLASGOW — In an effort to get ahead of a nationwide trend toward synthetic marijuana products, the Barren County Fiscal Court passed on first reading an ordinance at its regular Tuesday meeting to prohibit the possession or sale of cannabinoids, which are herbal incense products that give a marijuana-like high.

State law includes three Kentucky Revised Statutes that prohibit manufacturing, possessing and trafficking in “synthetic cannabinoid agonists or piperazines,” but as new ways to tweak the synthetic drugs are discovered, state laws do not cover every product on the market. Judge-Executive Davie Greer said that although Barren County hasn’t had any problems with the products yet, the ordinance is an important measure to head off any problem with the synthetic drugs.

“We just don’t want our young people to get any of this stuff on them,” Greer said. “We just want to nip it in the bud.”

While the synthetic cannabinoids have street names such as Spice or diablo, the Barren County ordinance uses the broad term “herbal incense products” to cover any new synthetic drugs that come on the market. Magistrate Chris Steward pointed out in the court meeting that synthetic marijuana is always being tweaked, and county ordinances across the state are trying to stay ahead of the drug market.

“We have to keep up on this, and it’s constantly changing,” Steward said. “Seems like when we build a 10-foot fence, they make an 11-foot ladder.”

There will always be products that are abused as drugs, such as formaldehyde or rubbing alcohol, said Barren-Edmonson Drug Task Force Director Jeff Scruggs, but law enforcement and government officials are doing what they can to curb the use of known synthetic drugs.

“It’s just continuous, like you say,” Scruggs said. “Every time something like this comes up, it becomes something else.”

Scruggs went on to point out how inconspicuously most of the synthetic marijuana products are packaged. Being sold as herbal incense, many consumers would never know the product could be smoked as a marijuana-like drug.

“Just because it’s marked on the package doesn’t mean it’s the end of the story,” Scruggs told the court.

The Barren County ordinance prohibiting cannabinoids mimicked a Warren County ordinance passed on Jan. 13. Since the Warren County ordinance passed, law enforcement seized synthetic cannabinoids valued at more than $2,000 at a hookah lounge in Bowling Green, according to WBKO.

The Kentucky Agency for Substance Abuse Policy (KY-ASAP) recently visited Barren County stores and were able to purchase synthetic cannabinoids in Barren County, Greer said in the court meeting.

As law enforcement and lawmakers are made more aware of the synthetic cannabinoid trend, ordinances are starting to mirror marijuana laws. The county ordinances have just as much power over its residences as a state law, according to County Attorney Jeff Sharp, they just don’t expand beyond the county lines. Once the synthetic cannabinoid ordinance, Ordinance 518, passes on second reading, it will be illegal for residents of Barren County to possess or sell herbal incense products.

“I just don’t think we need to allow people to have this stuff, that damages people’s brain and could kill them,” Greer said.

Individuals who use the herbal incense products experience “dangerous side effects including convulsions, anxiety attacks, dangerously elevated heart rates, increased blood pressure, vomiting and disorientation,” according to the ordinance.