MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

October 15, 2013

Garrison aims at fake pot

He’ll offer bill to ban synthetic substances regardless of contents

By D.E. Smoot
Phoenix Staff Writer

— State Sen. Earl Garrison plans to file a bill that would promote a more proactive approach to the enforcement of prohibitions related to the sales, use and possession of synthetic cannabinoids.

Muskogee city councilors gave their stamp of approval Monday to a resolution supporting the proposed amendment. The bill would include provisions designed to short-circuit efforts of chemists who have been able to stay one step ahead of the law by altering the chemical compounds and keeping these synthetic substances outside the realm of criminal prosecution.

Assistant City Attorney Matthew Beese said the proposed amendment is similar to measures passed in other states. It would include a blanket ban of all forms of the synthetic cannabinoids — popularly known as herbal incense, spice, potpourri and other slang terms — regardless of any unique chemical makeup.

Garrison, a Muskogee Democrat, said he agreed with Beese that something must be done to keep these substances that mimic the effects of marijuana out of the hands of youths. He cited the concerns of health care professionals and other experts who have deemed the substances dangerous.

“The way the law is now, they can just change a couple of things in the chemical compounds that help them get around the law,” Garrison said. “It puts a lot kids in jeopardy — you never know just how these compounds are going to affect a person.”

Synthetic cannabinoids consist primarily of plant-based substances sprayed with chemicals that produce an intoxicating effect when smoked. The findings included in the resolution approved by city councilors state that the substances can produce “profound psychological effects” deemed “dangerous” by experts.

Beese drafted a city ordinance earlier this year that prohibits sales, possession and use of synthetic cannabinoids by declaring them a public nuisance. He said for any law to really be effective, state lawmakers need to address the growing use of these substances by making criminal enforcement more feasible.

Garrison said the bill he plans to file for consideration during the next legislative session is designed to promote that goal. He said state narcotics officials have expressed support for such a measure, and he believes he can muster support from other lawmakers as well.

“I will be surprised if we cannot get something done with this next year,” Garrison said. “We feel like we can get some support for this in the Legislature.”

The Oklahoma Legislature will convene at noon Feb. 3 in Oklahoma City.

Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or dsmoot@muskogeephoenix.com.