NEWARK – New Jersey’s comprehensive ban on all variants of synthetic marijuana is now permanent, under a regulation formally adopted by the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa announced today.
The ban made New Jersey only the fourth state to comprehensively outlaw the manufacture, distribution, sale, and possession of all of the hundreds of possible variants of the dangerous, manmade drug, which is commonly known by brand names such as “K2,” “K3,” “Spice,” “Kush,” and many others.
The Division of Consumer Affairs introduced the ban on a temporary basis in February, through the enactment of a 270-day order. The permanent regulation took effect on Monday, Nov. 19, following a public hearing and public comment period, and upon publication in the current edition of the New Jersey Register. The temporary order was set to expire later this month.
“These synthetic poisons, once offered as a so-called ‘legal high’ by shady retailers, are now permanently off the market in New Jersey – and the numbers indicate our ongoing ban has led to a decline in their reported use,” Chiesa said. “These drugs have grown in popularity nationwide, despite their alarming and catastrophic side effects. Today they are permanently on record as being just as illegal as cocaine or heroin.”
The Division of Consumer Affairs’ ban adds these chemicals to the list of Schedule I Controlled Dangerous Substances in New Jersey. As Schedule I CDS, the drugs are now subject to the highest level of State control, along with cocaine and heroin. Manufacture, distribution, sale, or possession of the chemicals is now a third-degree crime. Violators may be subject to a fine of up to $25,000 and imprisonment for a three- to five-year term.
“New Jersey’s law enforcement agencies now have the tools they need to shut down the sellers of these toxic drugs, and keep them away from anyone misguided enough to use them,” Eric T. Kanefsky, Acting Director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, said. “And the public is now fully aware that, despite colorful labels and catchy brand names, K2 and Spice are associated with dangerous side effects including seizures, hallucinations, panic attacks, and suicide.”
Officials say the drugs need to be kept illegal because:
· Synthetic marijuana has been linked to dangerous side effects including violent seizures, dangerously elevated heart rates, anxiety attacks, and hallucinations, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
· Published reports indicate users have committed suicide or suffered fatal injuries after suffering extreme panic attacks caused by synthetic marijuana use. Reports published in peer-reviewed journals associate synthetic marijuana use with psychosis in some patients.
· Despite these dangers, synthetic marijuana has grown in popularity. The 2011 Monitoring the Future Study, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, found that synthetic marijuana is the third-most commonly abused drug by high school seniors, after marijuana and abused prescription drugs.
Chiesa noted that, since the enactment of the temporary ban in February, the State Police Office of Forensic Science has noted a 79 percent decrease in the number of synthetic marijuana incidents submitted by law enforcement between March and October 2012. The number of synthetic marijuana exposures reported to New Jersey’s poison control hotline is also significantly lower than last year, according to data from the New Jersey Poison Information and Education System.
Prior to enacting the ban on synthetic marijuana, the Division of Consumer Affairs in April 2011 took action to ban a separate category of designer drugs – the class of deadly chemicals that is commonly known as “bath salts,” or synthetic cathinones.
The Division of Consumer Affairs, in partnership with the New Jersey State Police Office of Forensic Science, remains on the alert for the rise and spread of other synthetic drugs, Chiesa said. Many substances found in other states, such as 2CE, or “Molly,” are illegal under federal legislation that the Division of Consumer Affairs adopted in August. Other substances may become the subject of future regulatory action by the Division.