Judiciary Committee

JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT

Bill No.:

SB-1098

Title:

AN ACT REGULATING THE SALE AND POSSESSION OF SYNTHETIC MARIJUANA AND SALVIA DIVINORUM.

Vote Date:

4/15/2011

Vote Action:

Joint Favorable

PH Date:

3/14/2011

File No.:

642

SPONSORS OF BILL:

Judiciary Committee

REASONS FOR BILL:

Many legislators, including Senator Boucher, proposed multiple bills prohibiting the sale of the many derivatives of synthetic cannabinoid products. These products are becoming more and more popular among youth as they currently are not regulated and readily available.

RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:

Division of Criminal Justice: Supports this bill. This legislation would bring conformity to state and federal statute and regulations prohibiting the sale of chemical compounds that are intended to produce the same intoxicating effect as marijuana. If for no other reason than basic public health, the state should prohibit the legal sale and use of these products.

Colonel Danny R. Stebbins, Acting Commissioner, Department of Public Safety: Supports this bill. Synthetic cannabinoid products are produced internationally, domestically, and in some cases by individuals. There are no safety controls or oversight in place. Because the chemical composition of the various products sold is inconsistent. It is likely that some varieties also contain substances with dramatically different effects that those expected by the user. This could lead to an unsafe condition for the user.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:

Andrea Stillman, State Senator: Supports this bill.

Based on law enforcement encounters, these substances are typically found laced on plant material. The plant material is packaged in small pouches or packets and is being sold in tobacco and smoke shops, drug paraphernalia shops, gas stations, convenience stores as herbal incense products giving customers of all ages direct access to these substances. And by "all ages," I mean kids well under 18, let alone 21.

Research articles propose that the packaging is professional, inconspicuous, targeting young people possibly eager to use cannabis but who are afraid of being caught with illicit drugs. Fake marijuana products often sold as K2 or Spice can be from five to 25 times more potent than THC, the active ingredient in the real thing.

Salvia divinorum, often and commonly referred to as "sage" is described by one nationally recognized expert in the field, is the most potent naturally occurring hallucinogen.

Earlier this year, the DEA used emergency authority to classify the chemicals used in synthetic marijuana as Schedule I controlled substances, and House Bill 1098 would similarly restrict the sale and use of these products used to coat otherwise innocuous herbs to create K2 and Spice in our state. The use of salvia divinorum can alter the perception and judgment of the user and can cause profound hallucinations.

If one of our purposes in state government is to protect the public health and well-being of individual residents, particularly young people, our state must carefully scrutinize these products and their active ingredients and decide to classify them among other controlled substances. Young people, commonly susceptible to peer pressure, trendy behavior and who are not yet old enough to purchase alcohol legally, must not have ready access to these products.

Joanne Hoffman: Supports this bill. My daughter was in rehabilitation in Fla. Things seemed to be going well until we noticed a change in her behavior. My husband searched her car and found K2. Because this substance isn't classified as a drug, per se, this item is being used by kids as a drug, to get high, and it's available legally everywhere. It is allowing many kids to get high with society's permission. It's also much more potent than pot. Having these drugs so readily available makes my daughter's sobriety very difficult. There is a feeling that there is nothing wrong with it since you can purchase it at the local gas station or convenience store.

Bonnie Smith, President, Connecticut Prevention Network: Supports this bill. Safety concerns about theses drugs have existed for several years. In the past two years, there has been an increased urgency expressed by local police, school systems, parents, colleges and youth serving organizations, to address the issue as there have been many serious medical emergencies related to the use of these drugs.

Calvina Fay, Executive Director, Save our Society From Drugs: Supports this bill. K2, Spice and Liquefied Gold is a mixture of plant products marketed and sold as incense but purchased and abused by youth because it is sprayed with chemicals known as JWH018 and JWH073, synthetic potent psychotropic compounds similar to cannabis.

While the long term effects of these drugs are relatively unknown, what we do know is frightening… Nationwide this year, poison control centers have received over 1,300 calls due to synthetic cannabinoids. These events involved victims as young as age 13 with reported symptoms including vomiting, unconsciousness, depressed respiration and altered mental states.

On March 1, 2011, the U.S. Drug enforcement Agency (DEA) exercised its emergency scheduling authority to control the chemicals used to manufacture these “legal-pot” products. This action makes possessing and selling these chemicals or the products that contain them illegal in the United States. Passing a state law, consistent with the DEA efforts, will make enforcement by local agencies easier.

Betsy S. Chadwick, Director, Chief Anthony Salvatore, President, Middlesex County Substance Abuse Action Council: Support this bill. At this writing, the above products can be purchased as K-2, Spice and Ecstacy for as little as $10.00 in shops around Middlesex County, including some gas stations and convenience stores. Both physicians and court personnel are frustrated with the ease with which patients/clients can circumvent sober-living rules by taking these drugs, as they do not show up in standard drug testing.

In our experience, virtually all youth and too many adults believe that when a products is sold legally in stores, it is safe to use – and poses fewer hazards than “real drugs.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

Michele Devin, Executive Director: Southeastern Regional Action Council: Supports this bill. These two legal drugs have swept into our state over the past two years and have caught many unprepared. Until recently, the “Users” of these drugs have had free reign to use during school, at work, on parole or during any other situation or time of the day. Salvia is a hallucinogen with similar qualities as LSD. Synthetic marijuana is another dangerous substance. The main ingredient of marijuana, (THC), is chemically reproduced and sprayed on any herb mixture. It affects the same receptors as the (THC) would.

These ”designer drugs” are created to avoid current laws. The goal is to satisfy the users' demands for popular drugs that can be obtained without prescriptions or other legal constraints.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:

Sam Tracy, Students for Sensible Drug Policy: Opposes this bill. While salvia cannot cause overdose or addiction, it is still a psychoactive drug. Surely something must be done about it, as I am sure everyone can agree that it should not be sold to children. However, banning the substance would just cause the well-known problems of prohibition. Its sale would be relegated to the black market, and drug dealers would take over its growth and distribution. It's possible that salvia sold on the street could be laced with other drugs, and people buying salvia may be pressured by their dealers into trying harder drugs such as cocaine or heroin. Also, the state would lose out on the tax revenues from the sale of salvia, and would instead need to spend money enforcing its prohibition.

The most sensible solution to the issue is to impose age restrictions on the sale of salvia. Imposing age limits, rather than banning salvia altogether, would cut down on adolescent use while not contributing to the increased violence and astronomical costs associated with prohibition.

Nicholas Payne: Opposes this bill

Daniel Malo: Opposes this bill. While the extracts are unregulated and readily available, the salvia plant is safe when used appropriately and that use should be protected. Its legality is called into question because the extracts have been used by some as an alternative to cannabis-the marketers of these extracts would tell you such. The human body has evolved alongside salvia,. And we have receptors for the chemical. Lab made extracts are not natural, and don't have the guarantee of accepted intake.

Reported by: George Marinelli

Date: April 28,2011