FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
State Rep. Jennifer Mann
Mann calls for ban on synthetic marijuana
HARRISBURG, Feb. 7 Ė State Rep. Jennifer Mann, D-Lehigh, announced the introduction of legislation that would make it illegal to possess synthetic marijuana, a dangerous blend of plant materials laced with toxic chemicals sold under brand names like "K2" and "Spice."
"Too many young people believe this poison is safe just because itís legal, but synthetic marijuana is no more a safe alternative to marijuana than paint thinner is a safe alternative to alcohol," Mann said. "Some hospital emergency departments are seeing at least a case a day of someone having a severe negative reaction to synthetic marijuana, and using this poison has led to countless accidents and criminal incidents.
"Right now a 20-year-old college student couldnít walk into a liquor store and buy alcohol or a 17-year-old high school student couldnít walk into a convenience store and buy tobacco Ė but either one of them could walk into a smoke shop or go online and buy synthetic marijuana with no oversight whatsoever. House Bill 176 would change that."
Possession of synthetic marijuana is banned in 17 other states, has been banned by colleges and military organizations and just last week led to the U.S. Navy dismissing 16 sailors.
Recently the federal Drug Enforcement Agency called for a temporary ban on the component of chemicals used to create synthetic marijuana so a study could be conducted on the drugís effect, but Mann doesnít believe Pennsylvania can or should wait.
"The ink wasnít dry on the ban before the producers of synthetic marijuana started changing the formulas to get around the new rules. The only effective solution is to ban the finished product. Otherwise the drug dealers will just put different chemicals Ė chemicals that have never been approved for human consumption Ė into their poison and even use sweeteners and flavors to hide the chemicals and appeal even more to kids."
Mann said her bill is similar to legislation proposed in the last session that passed the House overwhelmingly in the last session, but did not come up for a vote in the Senate.
"This isnít a Republican issue or a Democratic issue; itís a public health and safety issue. Thatís why Senator Pat Browne is going to co-sponsor this effort in the Senate. We canít afford to wait any longer to get this done."
Mannís legislation would also ban possession of Salvia Divinorum, considered to be the most dangerous naturally occurring hallucinogen in the world. Itís estimated that the abuse of these two substances led to more than 2,000 calls to poison control centers in 2010.
Mann also said that she plans to have the legislation amended to include a ban on so-called "bath salts," a substance that mimics the effects of methamphetamine that is sold by the gram and is snorted or injected.
"We have to move fast to keep up with the bad guys who want to sell poison to young people. While we wanted to keep the language in the original bill as close to last sessionís version as possible, weíre preparing amendment language to make possession of Ďbath saltsí illegal, as well."
The legislation now goes to the House Judiciary Committee for consideration.