Lawmaker eyes changes to synthetic marijuana ban

COLUMBUS, Ind. — Indiana communities said they're still worried about sales of synthetic marijuana despite a new state law banning the substance, and one lawmaker said it may be time to take "aggressive steps" to attack the problem.

State legislators made it illegal to sell or possess synthetic marijuana known as spice or K2 earlier this year. The substance is treated the same as real marijuana now.

But manufacturers can get around that law by slightly altering the chemical ingredients. Police and other local officials said the substance can still be easily purchased at many convenience stores.

Columbus Regional Hospital nurse Debbie Williamson said the mind-altering substance is dangerous because many of the chemicals are unknown. Its effects can include nausea, spiked blood pressure and heart rates, anxiety, paranoia and paralyzing seizures.

"They don't know what it is, that's the scariest thing about this," she said.

Bartholomew County officials said they've seen an increase in medical cases involving spice. But Prosecutor Bill Nash said his office has not prosecuted a single case of selling or possessing the synthetic substance because he hasn't received any positive lab results that comply with the state's definition of the drug the way the law is currently written.

State Rep. Milo Smith, R-Columbus, told The Republic he has met with police and prosecutors to discuss ways to strengthen the law to make it more enforceable.

"We don't have any easy answers," he said.

He said one solution could be to visit the stores accused and ask them to stop selling spice. Another option is to publicize which stores are selling the substance so consumers can decide whether they want to patronize those businesses, he said.

"We need to take some aggressive steps," he said.


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