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Governor to Ban Spice Today

22 February 2011  
Synthetic Marijuana product has raised a number of concerns among local leaders.

spiceGovernor Jan Brewer plans to hold a public signing ceremony on the “Spice Bill” at 11:30 a.m. today in the second floor meeting room at the State Capitol in Phoenix.

The signing of HB 2167, co-sponsored by Dist. 1 Rep. Karen Fann of Prescott, will legally prohibit the use of synthetic marijuana immediately.

What is Spice?

It seems harmless enough, wrapped in cute, little lip gloss-shaped cylindrical containers selling for about $8 a gram in smoke shops and convenience stores across the world and even in downtown Prescott.

But buyer beware! This “incense” petitely (pretty much requiring a magnifying glass to read) labeled “not for consumption” product primarily manufactured in China in a variety of popular colors and flavors, i.e. Cherry, Strawberry, Watermelon and even Bubblegum and Lights Out XXX, is luring misinformed and uneducated consumers into a risky, euphoric, blissful solution to everyday challenges unaware of the consequences attached to its consumption.

Spice is a synthetic Cannabinoid replica of the natural THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol).

Known as K2, with synthetic derivatives to avoid legal sanctions recasting it as K3 and K4, the basic chemical compounds of JWH-018 (1-pentyl-3-1-naphthoyl indole), is described as “an analgesic chemical from the naphtholindole family, which acts as full agonist at both the CB1 and CB2 Cannabinoid receptors, with some selectivity for CB2. It produces effects in animals similar to those of THC, a cannabinoid naturally present in cannabis, leading to its use in synthetic cannabis,” according to the free online encyclopedia Wikipedia site.

So, basically, it’s a new market product legally replacing marijuana with some hallucinogenic effects that hit the streets across the U.S. about two years ago, according to national, state and local reports from emergency responder agencies, court officials, behavioral health specialists and other community leaders.

According to reports from locally protected users, its “high” lasts about half as long as a marijuana “high” but it’s physical addiction and impact in regards to increased blood pressure, seizures, fungal lung infections, heart palpitations, vomiting, nausea, hallucinations and aggressive or hostile behavior are greater that those experienced with the use of pot.

Who Uses Spice?

It is being smoked by kids and convicts trying to keep clean from probationary restraints and its use cannot be analyzed by Department of Public Safety Crime Lab specialists or local blood labs, according to public officials investigating its use locally.

“It’s going to be a challenge identifying what it could be,” said Prescott V alley Police Commander Bill
Fessler.

“It’s not coming, it’s here,” said an undercover Prescott Area Narcotics Task Force Commander participating in Yavapai County MATForce Steering Committee meetings in Prescott. “The question is, what do we do about the problem?”

It’s been Outlawed in 13 States

“Its use is outlawed in other countries, Austria, Germany, Sweden and Lithuania,” said Merillee Fowler, administrative assistant for MATForce. “Thirteen (U.S.) states have legislation to make Spice illegal. In some states, it’s illegal to use, in some states it’s illegal to possess, but as it has quietly crept into the U.S., no one seems to have a real handle on it and our young people in our community are suffering the consequences.”

It has community leaders in a wide span of careers setting aside other priorities to get a grip on a seamlessly innocent commodity that has the potential to cause great harm to this region.

North Central Arizona leaders have gathered for months during monthly MATForce Steering Committee meetings to learn more about the synthetic drug, share concerns about how to attack a socially addictive problem and work toward solutions toward educating the community about its affects.

The final outcome was a group effort aimed at getting legislation written and passed that will make this new drug of choice as illegal as marijuana, methamphetamine, heroine and extacy, another relatively new comer to the “Designer Drug” world that U.S. Federal officials are choosing to look away from regardless of action being taken in other countries, a banned form of mind-altering alternatives.

Besides being legal, Spice cannot be detected through most blood tests or used as evidence in crime prosecution in determining the actual effects associated with its use.

According to testimony from a YRMC Emergency Room nurse; Verde Valley Guidance Clinic Spokeswoman Patty May; the Yavapai County Chief Adult of the Adult Probation Program Billie Grobe; Yavapai County Department of Health Director Robert Resendes and Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk and others on the MATForce Steering Committee a proactive effort against its use is imminent.

The launching of state lobbying efforts to implement a law banning Spice was called for by behavioral health specialists, medical professionals, law enforcers and court officials.

Reports were shared that students at the local elementary, middle school, high school and college levels can easily access Spice regardless of age because, after all, it is labeled as an incense product not for consumption and unlike spray paint, recognized tobacco products and cold medicines sometimes used to make methamphetamine, and was not yet considered a potentially hazardous material.

This under-the-radar artificial chemical “cannabis” replica is presented as a colorful herbal hemp pile in easy-to-purchase collector cases with pretty labels.

Its selling points have been that is a legal high, so minors and convicts on probation can bypass legal restrictions, and that it produces not only a marijuana-type high but a touch of hallucinogenic LSD euphoria that is worth its bang for the buck.

And it actually costs more to purchase than the street price of marijuana, according to Prescott Chief of Police Mike Cable.

Interferes with Recovery Process

Those in the behavioral recovery field are concerned Spice provides a legal alternative substance that “satisfies predictive addictive tendencies and perpetuates substitutive behavior conflicting with proven recovery methods,” according to Verde Valley Guidance Clinic Spokeswoman Patty May.

Yavapai County Superintendent of Public Schools Superintendent Tim Carter said no school policy could be made against the use of Spice until state legislation prohibiting the use of the designer drug set a precedent that school districts could use to implement follow-up disciplinary procedures.

A Prescott Police undercover agent participating in the first countywide private meeting focused on the rising concern about Spice consumption about six months ago told those attending the major obstacle they are combating to keep this city and county from suffering ramifications from the alternative drug, Spice, is dealing with the reality that legal constraints make counteraction gravely problematic.

“There are no laws against its sale right now and you can pick it up at at least three places in Prescott, one is less than two miles south of Mile High Middle School,” he said ( Prescott eNews prefers to keep this source’s identity private at this point to not interfere with his pending investigative work).

Those concerned about the use of Spice in the greater Prescott area hope now that the Governor is signing HB 2167, they will have the power to get it off local shop shelves and out of the hands of young people living here.

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Lauren Millette