I had a man call me last week about a horrible tale involving the death of his son. Without going into the details, his son had died after ingesting some form of “synthetic marijuana.” Synthetic marijuana is a substance that claims to be legal while mimicking the effects of illegal drugs.
Admittedly, I am not very familiar with synthetic marijuana. This may be because of the lack of prosecutions involving the substance or substances in west Georgia. However, it seems to be much more dangerous than the natural marijuana that many people have smoked for years. When was the last time you heard someone dying from smoking natural marijuana?
Additionally, it is rather easy to find. You can locate synthetic drugs at some gas stations and counter culture stores. The Fulton County Daily Report recently reported that some of these substances go by the names of “K2” and “Spice.”
Georgia does have existing law that makes it a crime to possess some synthetic drugs. The problem is that experts in chemistry are very clever and intelligent people. Apparently, some of these chemists have been able to change or modify the compounds in these substances on a yearly basis. Since criminal drug statutes are written to include the prohibited ingredients in an illegal drug, manufacturers of synthetic marijuana simply have to change or come up with new chemicals to put in the products in order to avoid prosecution.
This is a problem for prosecutors as well. When alleged contraband is seized by law enforcement, it is usually sent to the GBI crime lab in Atlanta to be analyzed. The GBI chemists generate a report of what is in the substance and how much.
The GBI witness must testify at trial regarding the alleged illegal drug in order for a prosecutor to piece together his or her case.
The GBI crime lab is already backed up with work from other cases. Additionally, it is expensive and time consuming to have their employees travel throughout the state to testify. The State must use their resources in the best possible scenarios.
It seems that synthetic marijuana cases are not one of those scenarios at this point because of the rapidly changing nature of the prosecutions.
Georgia now has to accept the challenge of figuring out how to prosecute the possession, distribution, or sale of synthetic marijuana in its ever growing forms. Over the past three sessions, the General Assembly has passed laws adding the new chemicals that are known to have been used in the previous year. But, I don’t think that this approach of reactionary legislation is working or will work in the future.
I don’t have the perfect solution. I am also not a lawmaker. But, it would seem that a forward thinking statute that was drafted broadly enough to cover potential new intoxicants being added to the marijuana would be a good idea starting point. This would take some skill, creative thinking, and very careful drafting. An unconstitutional statute is always a waste of time.
In the meantime, the DEA and law enforcement in the west Georgia and metro Atlanta area are working hard to get the currently illegal forms of synthetic marijuana off the streets.
For more information about this growing problem in our community, you can contact Reagen Clayton in Carrollton or Jesse Hambrick in Douglasville. These guys are both working tirelessly to get this stuff off the streets and educate the public, particularly parents, about this unfamiliar danger.