Last week, the Georgia State Board of Pharmacy adopted an emergency rule classifying newly discovered compounds of synthetic marijuana, commonly known as spice, as Schedule I substances under the Georgia Controlled Substances Act.
Schedule I drugs are not considered legitimate for medical use, have a high potential for abuse and are only for experimental use. Heroin, LSD and marijuana are included in this class.
With this new classification, law enforcement across Georgia has the authority to seize these new formulas of spice from the shelves of convenience stores, gas stations, tobacco shops and head shops.
This action came about at the request of Gov. Nathan Deal, who sent a letter to the president of the state pharmacy board stating that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation had determined Spice was reappearing throughout the state.
This past legislative session, along with Rep. Buddy Harden, R-Cordele, and others, I sponsored and passed Senate Bill 370 — Chase’s Law — which classified the then-base compound of spice as a Schedule I drug and said any deviation or variation from this base compound would also be considered a Schedule I drug.
Recognizing the ongoing public danger and urgent need for action, Gov. Deal signed SB 370 into law before the session ended, and law enforcement began immediately removing spice from retail outlets.
While it was thought by law enforcement that we finally had a solution to this ongoing problem, new formulations of spice with a different base compound began appearing almost immediately throughout the state. Retailers were sent letters from lawyers representing manufacturers of the new base compound of spice assuring them that the new formula was exempt from the recently passed law.
A chemical analysis of the new substance performed by the GBI confirmed that to be true, and therefore, the emergency action taken by the State Board of Pharmacy last week became necessary.
Situations like this are common with synthetic drugs, particularly those that are abused. Trying to keep up with the numerous different base formulations is a daunting task.
Sadly, most reports lead us to believe the effects of the new formulation are worse than the formulation outlawed only a few months ago.
Stories of the devastating effects of spice are disturbing. In September 2011, a sheriff’s deputy in Statesboro responded to a call of a young man who had nearly beaten his girlfriend to death with a beer mug after both ingested spice.
While the girlfriend ended up in intensive care with a shattered cheek and eye socket, a plate in her jaw and a bruised brain, the boyfriend was charged with aggravated assault with the intent to murder, changing both of their lives forever.
The problem has gotten so bad on certain military bases that military personnel have been prohibited from shopping at stores that carry these products.
But perhaps the most heartbreaking story is of Chase Burnett, a 16-year-old honor student and soccer player at McIntosh High School in Peachtree City who passed away in his parent’s home after smoking spice.
At the request of Rep. Matt Ramsey, R-Peachtree City, and Sen. Ronnie Chance, R- Tyrone, who represents the Peachtree City area, SB 370 was named Chase’s Law in Burnett’s memory.
When Gov. Deal signed Chase’s Law on March 27 in his office, Burnett’s parents were present. My heart ached to see the pain these grieving parents were experiencing. Since the tragedy, they have dedicated themselves to spreading the word about the dangers of this drug.
I’ve heard the cries of those who say we should legalize marijuana and compare it to the prohibition of alcohol in the early 1900s. I don’t buy that for one second.
Make no mistake about it: We are at war here. Marijuana — synthetic or real — has no place in our state, and we will do whatever is necessary to rid our communities of this infestation.
Carter can be reached at 404-656-5109.