Davis introduces blanket ban on synthetics

By DeeAnna Haney | Apr 12, 2013

Fairly new to the drug scene, synthetic versions of drugs have seeped into society causing a new and dangerous drug craze, and Haywood County has not been immune to the problem.

The synthetics are chemically enhanced products that mimic the high from illicit drugs such as cocaine, marijuana and meth.

Bath salts and synthetic marijuana come in shiny packages under names such as "7H" or the latest "Bizarro," and are marketed as incense. But those who buy it are instead smoking and inhaling the products, which can be highly addictive and have been known to cause hallucinations, insomnia, extreme mood changes, manic behavior and in extreme cases — death.

But a bill that was recently introduced in the senate could make a difference in the amount of people ending up in the emergency room from using synthetic drugs.

Sen. Jim Davis, R-Franklin, said he sponsored the bill, along with several others pertaining to prescription drug abuse, to help law enforcement combat the newest “designer” drug craze, which is mostly affecting teens.

Despite a federal ban on synthetics, convenience stores and head shops across the nation have continued to carry them. About a year ago, nearly every gas station in Waynesville offered synthetic marijuana.

After local police chiefs sent out letters to convenience stores known to have carried the product, it seems that all of them have stripped synthetic drugs from their shelves. But it can still easily be purchased in neighboring towns and even online.

Since the fake drugs are marketed as incense, potpourri or bath salts, suppliers are able to evade the laws, leaving police without legal reason to make any arrests. The only way for police to know if the substance contains the illegal ingredients is to send the herbs off to a lab. But those tests could take months, maybe even up to a year to get back.

North Carolina has already banned the chemical ingredients that make up certain synthetics, such as K2. But as soon as one chemical compound is made illegal, manufacturers simply change the ingredients to make it legal again.

If passed into law, Senate Bill 724 could solve that problem completely.

Waynesville Police Chief Bill Hollingsed said hopes the bill will turn into an all encompassing law prohibiting any imitation controlled substance.

Davis said he modeled the language of the bill after Tennessee’s blanket ban that was signed into law last summer. The goal is to close up loopholes so that all synthetics, no matter what the chemical ingredients, are deemed illegal.

“We’re hopeful. We think it is another tool in law enforcement’s tool belt to get their job done," Davis said.

More than anything, Hollingsed believes legislation for synthetic drugs and prescription pills will help save lives.

"We're looking at ways we can stop literally zipping our kids into body bags. Law enforcement can't arrest our way out of this problem," he said.