Friday, January 21, 2011

Rep. Eric Meyer, D-Paradise Valley, and House Minority Whip Matt Heinz, introduce bills that target dangerous synthetic drugs

Arizona bills target synthetic drugs used to get high
By Alia Beard Rau
The Arizona Republic

A bipartisan group of Arizona lawmakers wants to ban two substances increasingly being used to get high.

But new synthetics continue to pop up.

The real challenge, drug-education experts say, is creating a ban that is broad enough to cover new drugs but that keeps products with legitimate uses on the shelves.

The House Judiciary Committee on Thursday unanimously passed House Bill 2167, which would expand the definition of dangerous drugs to include 10 chemicals used to make synthetic marijuana products sold under the names "K2" or "spice." The product is sold as
an incense or potpourri and labeled as not for human consumption, but it is known as a synthetic - and legal - marijuana.

"This is a bad drug," said Rep. David Burnell Smith, R-Scottsdale. "The effects are much worse than marijuana."

Use of spice has exploded in Arizona and nationwide in the past year.

Joranda MontaƱo, the prevention director at the Mesa-based substance-abuse treatment and prevention agency Community Bridges, said she had never seen something spread as quickly as spice had among kids.

The American Association of Poison Control Centers reported that centers received more than 2,700 calls nationwide about the substance in 2010, compared with fewer than 100 in 2009.

Twenty other states also are considering legislation to ban spice. According to th
e National Conference of State Legislatures, at least 11 states took action in 2010.

Rep. Amanda Reeve, R-Cave Creek, said she worked on the bill with Rep. Matt Heinz, D-Tucson, a physician at Tucson Medical Center.

Heinz told the committee that he admitted a 21-year-old into the hospital this summer who couldn't walk and was twitching after taking spice.

"This is not marijuana," Heinz said. "It is not even a good resemblance to marijuana chemically. It is much more serious in terms of effects."

Reported side effects include seizures, stroke, headache, visual disturbances, racing heartbeat, elevated blood pressure and anxiety.

In November, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration announced it would institute a 12-month ban on five of the chemicals used to make spice and consider a permanent ban.

Rep. Eric Meyer, D-Paradise Valley, also a physician, introduced a bill to make it a crime to sell or give the drug Salvia divinorum to anyone younger than age 21.

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