MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Alabama state health officer Dr. Don Williamson says hey sign an emergency order making the possession or sale of chemical compounds commonly found in synthetic marijuana substances unlawful. Williamson said in a statement Friday that the substances will be placed under Schedule I of the Alabama Controlled Substances List effective on Oct. 24.
The Alabama Department of Public Health heard testimony at a public hearing on Sept. 19 on concerns about synthetic marijuana products known by the common street names of "Spice," "K2" and others. ADPH says the psychoactive herbal and chemical substances have been sold in a variety of stores and marketed online as herbal incense or potpourri.
"These substances have been wrongly presented as a safe and legal alternative to marijuana," Dr. Williamson said. "By supporting regulations outlawing their possession and sale, we want the public to be aware of the toxic effects and other dangers associated with synthetic marijuana use."
A total of 24 substances are being placed under emergency control. In February 2011, two other chemicals which were being marketed as "bath salts" were added to the Alabama Controlled Substances List,.
Williamson said people who commented at the Sept. 19th hearing were concern that there is a misconception by those who purchase the substances believing the products are safe because of the way they are packaged and sold at a variety of retail outlets.
Gov. Robert Bentley's office said he's urging store owners to remove the products from their shelves. If they don't "We have instructed our law enforcement agencies to take possession of any that they find for sale." Bentley said the substances within the products are now deemed "controlled substances" and making, selling possessing or using the products is now illegal.
Chris McCool, president of the Alabama District Attorneys Association, said the organization applauds the state's efforts and said it now gives DAs the "tools to prosecute those individuals who seek to profit from the misery of this dangerous product."
The Regional Poison Control Center at Children's of Alabama reports receiving 101 calls from persons exposed to "K2" or "Spice" since October 2010. Three victims were children 6 to 12 years of age, 35 were teenagers and 32 were in their 20s. Symptoms they experienced were classified as follows: neurological, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, respiratory, dermal and ocular.
Williamson's statement said that while the "high" for synthetic marijuana may last no more than 15 to 20 minutes, users can experience the chronic side effects for weeks. Adverse medical side effects of its use are not fully known, but include the following:
· Anxiety attacks
· Nausea and vomiting
· Increased heart rate and rapid pulse
· Suicidal thoughts
· Aggression and uncontrollable rage
· Severe depression
INFORMATION SOURCE: Alabama Department of Public Health