New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs Announces May 10 Hearing On Regulation to Make Permanent New Jersey's Comprehensive Ban on Synthetic Marijuana
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NEWARK - Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa today announced the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs will hold a public hearing on Thursday, May 10 - one month from today - to take testimony on the Attorney General's and the Division's intent to make permanent New Jersey's comprehensive ban on synthetic marijuana.
"We struck an important first blow by enacting a temporary ban that, for the first time, outlawed every possible variant of synthetic marijuana," Attorney General Chiesa said. "Now we are taking the steps needed to make the ban permanent, and a public hearing is a vital part of that process. These toxic chemicals have devastating effects on the body and mind, but they are growing in popularity among teenage users nationwide. There is no time to waste in our effort to ensure shady retailers will never again sell these poisons as if they were legal."
New Jersey on February 28, 2012 became the fourth state in the nation to enact a sweeping ban that covers all known and unknown variants of synthetic marijuana - a term that includes hundreds of dangerous, manmade chemicals, sold with brand names such as
"K2" and "Spice," that are designed to mimic marijuana's effect on the brain.
The drugs are temporarily banned by an Order of the Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs, which adds all known and unknown variants of synthetic marijuana 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, like 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.
Under New Jersey's Controlled Dangerous Substances Act, the Order of the Consumer Affairs Director will remain in effect for 270 days, or until a permanent regulation is adopted. Next month's public hearing is a necessary component of the administrative process of adopting a permanent regulation. Public notice about the hearing was published March 19, 2012 in the New Jersey Register.
About the Public Hearing:
- The public hearing will begin at 10 a.m., Thursday, May 10, in the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs headquarters, Monmouth Conference Room, 7th Floor, 124 Halsey Street, Newark, NJ 07101.
- Requests to speak should be submitted in writing, no later than May 4, 2012, to Sharon Joyce, Acting Director, New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, P.O. Box 45027, 124 Halsey Street, Newark, NJ 07101. Those who do not pre-register to speak will be given an opportunity to do so only as time permits. Written comments are also encouraged and should be sent, no later than May 4, to the same mailing address.
About Synthetic Marijuana:
The toxic ingredients of synthetic marijuana can have devastating effects on the user.
- Of the 146 cases of synthetic marijuana exposure reported to the New Jersey Poison Information and Education System in 2011, 92 percent resulted in symptoms alarming enough to require treatment in a healthcare facility.
- 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.
- In 2010, the most recent year for which comprehensive data is available, poison control centers received reports about five deaths nationwide associated with synthetic marijuana.
- More recently, 14-year-old Brandon Rice, of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, reportedly died at Children's Hospital in Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania on October 27, 2011, due to his use of synthetic marijuana smoked from a Pez candy dispenser. The severe damage to his lungs resulted in four months of suffering, prior to his death of an infection following a double lung transplant.
Alarmingly, despite the dangerous consequences of abuse, synthetic marijuana is growing in popularity as a drug of choice. In fact, according to poison control center data, its reported use has risen even more rapidly in New Jersey than in the nation as a whole.
- The New Jersey Poison Education and Information System received 146 calls reporting exposure to synthetic marijuana in 2011 - an alarming 711 percent increase from 2010. Seventy percent of the synthetic marijuana reports in 2011 originated in Middlesex, Ocean, Monmouth, Morris, Mercer, and Atlantic counties.
- Nationwide, poison control centers received 7,000 calls related to synthetic marijuana exposure - a 139 percent increase from 2010, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers.
- Synthetic marijuana is the third most commonly abused drug by high school seniors, after marijuana and abused prescription drugs, according to the 2011 Monitoring the Future Study, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Synthetic marijuana is usually sold in small packets of approximately 500 milligrams to three grams, with brand names such as "K2," "K3," "Spice," "Kush," "Down 2 Earth," "Comatose Candy," and many others. The packets often contain a mixture of herbs and plant materials that have been coated with chemical agents that affect the brain. The products are often labeled as "incense" or "potpourri" in order to hide their true nature from law enforcement.
Packets of synthetic marijuana and other suspected designer drugs have been sold at gas stations, boardwalk novelty shops, and other locations across New Jersey. The packages often bear labels claiming the contents are not covered by any existing federal or state ban, creating the impression that they can be sold legally.
For much more information on the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs' initiative to stop the use of synthetic marijuana, so-called "bath salts," and other designer drugs.
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file a complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey ) or 973-504-6200.
Follow the Division of Consumer Affairs on Facebook, and check our online calendar of upcoming Consumer Outreach events.