Cumberland Times-News

April 30, 2013

Synthetic marijuana bill designed to close loopholes

Matthew Bieniek
Cumberland Times-News

— CUMBERLAND — Among the many bills passed in this year’s General Assembly session was a law banning certain substances used to create synthetic marijuana. The bill, House Bill 1, will need Gov. Martin O’Malley’s signature before becoming law.

Defining synthetic marijuana can be complex, according to a fiscal and policy note prepared by the Department of Legislative Services.

“Cannabimimetic agents, also referred to as ‘synthetic marijuana’ or ‘synthetic cannabinoids,’ are chemical substances that are not derived from the marijuana plant but are designed to affect the body in ways similar to THC, the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Synthetic cannabinoids are typically sprayed onto plant material and marketed under names such as ‘Spice’ or ‘K2,’” the fiscal and policy note reads.

The substances cause law enforcement difficulties, officials said.

“The popularity ... of these substances has grown in recent years, and criminal enforcement of the sale and possession of these substances has been challenging, since manufacturers can elude legal bans on products by making slight changes to their chemical structures,” according to the fiscal and policy note. The bill is designed to help close such loopholes.

A law banning most of the substances and possible derivatives already exists in Allegany County. Delegate Kevin Kelly worked with Sheriff Craig Robertson and county commissioners to initiate the county law last year.

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.

The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene had recommended a statewide solution.

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

“Medical people are telling me they’ve seen a large decline in the number of people coming into the emergency room,” Robertson has said.

Kelly was the lead sponsor of the bill.

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