Synthetic cannabinoids (herbal incense) like K2, Spice, Kronic Juice and others are bad news because of their potency, addictive qualities, and significant health risks. The Peach State continues to wrestle with these harmful designer drugs despite recent legislation to stop them.

Herbal incense is attractive to teens and young people and still being sold at gas stations across Georgia. These synthetic marijuana drugs have been outlawed since 2012, and yet, the measures keep morphing at the state level. The Georgia legislature has initially given the thumbs up to bills that make certain compounds felonies, but the manufacturers of these synthetic drugs are able to bypass the laws, says Attorney General Sam Olens.

For instance, once state lawmakers would pass a measure on a list of illegal chemicals for synthetic cannabinoids, the drug makers would change one compound so that their synthetic drugs were no longer illegal. Then, the legislature would have to go back and declare the new formula illegal. The cycle would continue with drug manufacturers tweaking compounds every month.

Olens is also after the big oil companies like Exxon and Chevron whose gas stations continue to stock these herbal incense brands. He is demanding these establishments ban all synthetic drugs across Georgia.

Synthetic cannabinoids have often been marketed to young people as a safe alternative to real marijuana and other street drugs. Teens figure that if the herbal incense is being sold at a gas station or convenience store and on the internet that it is an okay product to use. However, these synthetic drugs can be potentially lethal, and no one knows what a correct dosage might be because these drugs can vary from batch to batch. These drugs arrive packaged at the United States from around the world like Asia and Europe. No one knows exactly what’s in them.

For example, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned the nation about synthetic cannabinoids in 2018 because a type of rat poison was being added to the formulas to allegedly heighten the duration of the drugs’ effects. This contamination had resulted in a fatality and severe illnesses.

What makes the herbal incense dilemma even tougher to halt are the designer drugs’ ability to avoid detection. These synthetics are odorless and cannot be found in standard drug testing. In addition, these drugs vary in their potency. Some users say that the effects last for only about 30 minutes, while others say that they can last for up to 5 hours.

About 60 medical emergencies for synthetic cannabinoids were recorded in a year by the Georgia Poison Center.

Many young people in the state still do not understand the laws; herbal incense is illegal even if purchased from a gas station or convenience store in Georgia. Getting busted with synthetic marijuana in Georgia is a felony. If a person orders these drugs by mail or attempts to cross states lines with these substances, they could be facing federal prosecution.

Two businesses in Savannah were nailed by police and drug enforcement agents in January following a five-month investigation. A major amount of synthetic cannabinoids and $18,000 in cash were seized at the Tobacco Palace on Montgomery Crossroads and The Tobacco Palace on Abercorn Street. One person was arrested and charged with one count of the sale of a controlled substance (Schedule I).

Law enforcement continues to crack down hard on establishments peddling these harmful synthetic drugs. In Georgia, police mean business. “If you sell it, you will be held accountable.”

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