Cumberland Times-News

Local News

November 2, 2013

Sheriff tackles legal drug abuse issues

Anti-drug DVD will be shown at high schools

CUMBERLAND — A new, mostly locally produced DVD provides a new tool to fight synthetic marijuana and bath salts use, said Allegany County Sheriff Craig Robertson, who discussed and played the 15-minute DVD at Thursday’s Allegany County commission meeting.

The DVD will be shown in local schools for a start, said Robertson. The commission meeting was the first public showing of the video, Robertson said.

Dates are already set to show the video at Allegany and Fort Hill High schools, Robertson said.

Among others, the video features Robertson and Allegany County Health Officer Dr. Sue Raver.

“It is important to understand these are very potent drugs ... these are not safe,” Raver said in the DVD. The effects of the drugs can be long-term and even fatal, according to medical personnel speaking in the DVD. The drugs can cause agitation and paranoia and are not made in regulated labs and the dosages are not clear, Raver said. The drugs can be sniffed, smoked or injected, health officials have said.

The concern over the use of bath salts and synthetic marijuana and related drugs has been growing as both public health and public safety threats. A county law to attack the problem was passed last year. Many of the substances continue to be sold over the counter, especially in nearby states.

Defining synthetic marijuana can be complex, according to a report 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 report 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 Legislative Services report. “Keeping up with the chemists” has been a major problem with the laws on the books, Robertson said.

“Just because it’s for sale (legally) doesn’t mean it’s safe,” Robertson said.

The video was produced with the help of John Lombardi of Frostburg State University and Joe Caporale of WQZK and Brian Caporale, Robertson said. Robertson presented the trio with plaques during the commission meeting in recognition of their aid in producing the video.

Robertson also recognized Jay Culter and presented him with a citizen’s award plaque for offering a key tip that led to the arrest of two bank robbery suspects on Sept. 3. The suspects are charged in the robberies of Susquehanna Bank in LaVale on Aug. 28 and Sept. 3, Robertson said.

The arrests led to the closure of both cases.

“Many times citizens don’t want to become involved,” Robertson said. “But when they do, sometimes the results are remarkable.”

The Sept. 3  holdup at the Susquehanna Bank branch in the 900 block of National Highway marked the second robbery there in less than a week.

The suspects were identified as 47-year-old William Carl Miller Jr. of Shade Gap, Pa., and 27-year-old Chelsea Maye Morrison-Mikolajczyk of North East. Both were charged in the Sept. 3 robbery, and Miller was charged in an August robbery of the bank.

Matthew Bieniek can be contacted at mbieniek@times-news.com.

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