San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

March 15th, 2011
Ban synthetic drugs, lawmakers say

by CHRISTOPHER SMITH GONZALEZ
The Texas Tribune

Synthetic drugs and hallucinogenic plants shouldn’t stand a chance in Texas, lawmakers on the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee said today, as they considered a set of bills that would ban the substances.

Five of the bills deal with synthetic marijuana, which is currently available at stores under brand names like K2, Spice or Ice. These products are typically labeled as incense but are sprayed with a chemical compound similar to THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient in marijuana.

“Smoking K2 can have dangerous consequences that put youth health at great risk,” said Rep. Jerry Madden, R-Plano. His bill would criminalize the manufacturing, sale and possession of the active ingredients in synthetic marijuana.

Madden said the greatest challenge to banning the synthetic drug was the ease with which chemists could manipulate chemical compounds to create a new compound with similar effects. To stop new synthetic marijuana compounds from being created and sold legally, Madden said, the bill would broadly describe the banned chemical compounds to anticipate such substitutions.

“There is no beneficial or legitimate use of these products,” Madden said. “It is critical that Texas join the at least 16 other states that have now banned these dangerous substances.”

HB 1548, by Rep. Kenneth Sheets, R-Dallas, would ban mephedrone and methylenedioxypyrovalerone — also known as MDPV — which are ingredients in products often labeled as “bath salts.” These bath salts can produce effects similar to cocaine and methamphetamines, Sheets said.

Dr. Miguel C. Fernández, director of the South Texas Poison Center, told committee members that cases of poisoning due to bath salts were on the rise across the state. Last year, 20 cases were reported to Texas Poison Centers. In the first few months of 2011, Fernández said, there were 39 reports of adverse affects by patients.

Rep. Charles “Doc” Anderson, R-Waco, introduced HB 470 which would ban salvia, a naturally occurring herb with hallucinogenic effects. Anderson told the committee that salvia has been banned in many countries, as well as in 23 states and over 50 Texas cities. “A serious problem here is that it is a potent hallucinogen that is readily available,” Anderson said. Anderson, like many others proponents of the bans, said that the synthetic drugs as well as salvia were available at stores and online.

Arlington Deputy Police Chief Jaime Ayala said synthetic drug use is on the rise, and that the bills before the committee would help stop the spread of the new substances.

“One of the most dangerous and frightening aspects of synthetic drug use is the lack of understanding among users that these substances can actually be worse than the original drug themselves,” Ayala said.

The bills were left pending.

CHRISTOPHER SMITH GONZALEZ reports for The Texas Tribune where this story was originally published. It is reprinted here through a news partnership between the Tribune and the San Marcos Mercury.

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