Benson & Caride Bill to Criminalize Synthetic Marijuana Gets Final Legislative OK

(TRENTON) — Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Daniel R. Benson and Marlene Caride to criminalize the manufacture, sale and possession of synthetic marijuana was approved 73-1 Monday by the Assembly, giving it final legislative approval.

The bill (A-2673) would add synthetic marijuana to this state’s list of controlled dangerous substances. Synthetic marijuana, marketed under such other names as Spice, K2, Blaze and Red Dawn X are manmade substances designed to mimic the effects of marijuana. These designer drugs are sold in tobacco and smoke shops, drug paraphernalia shops, convenience stores and over the Internet and often are labeled as incense or potpourri to evade law enforcement.

“The use of synthetic marijuana reportedly has been growing in popularity despite serious side effects, including violent seizures, dangerously elevated heart rates, anxiety attacks, hallucinations and in some cases death,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “The number of cases of synthetic marijuana abuse as reported by poison control centers and hospitals has been increasing at an alarming rate, so let’s take this common sense step to combat it.”

“This bill makes it clear that synthetic marijuana is an illegal drug. Persons who violate the bill’s provisions will be subject to the most severe penalties under this state’s controlled dangerous substance law,” said Caride (D-Passaic/Bergen). “People do not realize that this drug is dangerous and poses a great risk to their health. Based on the information we are receiving from the poison control centers and hospitals, this bill is simply the right thing to do.”

Specifically, the bill codifies an order issued by the Director of Consumer Affairs on Feb. 29 by adding 10 classes of chemicals that fall under the umbrella of synthetic cannabinoids to the list of prohibited schedule I drugs.

The bill also prohibits any other synthetic chemical compound that is a cannabinoid receptor agonist and mimics the pharmacological effect of naturally occurring cannabinoids. This provision essentially bans any substance that mimics the effect of marijuana’s main ingredient on the brain.

The bill now goes to the governor.