Cumberland Times-News

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January 3, 2013

Banning artificial pot to be reviewed

CUMBERLAND — A law already enacted by Allegany County commissioners banning many synthetic drugs may have a chance to become a statewide law, with some modifications, after being prefiled by Delegate Kevin Kelly for consideration in the General Assembly session, which begins Wednesday in Annapolis.

“We have the ability to shut these shops down. If there is a shop in your jurisdiction and they are selling this stuff, shut it down. If you have the laws in place, you can shut them down,” Kelly has said. “We have to protect our young people from these drugs.”

The substances are often sold in small shops offering smoking tobacco and equipment.

Prosecutors need an additional law to be able to go after as many of the substances as possible.

The law contains about four pages of chemical compounds that would be banned for imitating the psychoactive substances in marijuana.

 A county law banning most of the substances and possible derivatives was enacted by commissioners in 2012. Kelly worked with Sheriff Craig Robertson and county commissioners to initiate the county law last year.

“I’ll totally support any ... laws or enforcement tools,” Robertson said, after hearing of the state proposal.

While Maryland bans bath salts and some synthetic drugs, the existing laws and regulations aren’t comprehensive and manufacturers and sellers often manage to skirt prosecution. Chemists can often construct new substances that aren’t covered by existing laws.

A statewide solution has been recommended by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Robertson said the local law, passed in September, is bringing positive results.

The drugs are often referred to as synthetic pot and often are lumped in with bath salts, although the drugs are somewhat different. Some bath salts are already illegal in Maryland, according to Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

The effects of the drugs are “troubling to law enforcement and medical professionals,” Robertson has said. And the highs of the drugs can bring on some nasty lows and dangerous behavior. The drugs can cause medical and psychological problems including cardiac disturbances, agitation, delirium, paranoia and psychosis, Allegany County Health Department officials have said.

The General Assembly’s website can be found at: http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/webmga/frm1st.aspx?tab=home.

Contact Matthew Bieniek at mbieniek@times-news.com.

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