NEWARK, N.J. (Legal Newsline) - New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa announced on Tuesday that the Division of Consumer Affairs will hear testimony on an attempt to make the state's synthetic marijuana ban permanent.
The public hearing will occur on May 10. The state became the fourth state in the nation to put a sweeping ban into practice that covers all known and unknown synthetic marijuana variants on Feb. 28.
The term synthetic marijuana includes hundreds of manmade, dangerous chemicals sold with brand names such as Spice and K2 that are meant to mimic the effect of marijuana on the brain.
"We struck an important first blow by enacting a temporary ban that, for the first time, outlawed every possible variant of synthetic marijuana," Chiesa said.
"Now we are taking the steps needed to make the ban permanent, and a public hearing is a vital part of that process. These toxic chemicals have devastating effects on the body and mind, but they are growing in popularity among teenage users nationwide. There is no time to waste in our effort to ensure shady retailers will never again sell these poisons as if they were legal."
The drugs were banned temporarily by an order from the Division of Consumer Affairs' director, adding all unknown and known variants of synthetic marijuana to the list of Schedule I Controlled Dangerous Substances in the state. As Schedule I CDS, the drugs are now subject to the strictest level of control by the state, like heroin and cocaine.
Possession, manufacture, sale or distribution of the chemicals has been made a third degree crime. Violators could be subject to a fine of as much as $25,000 and imprisonment of between three and five years.
Under the terms of the state's Controlled Dangerous Substances Act, the order will continue to remain in effect for 270 days, or until a permanent regulation has been adopted. The public hearing is part of the administrative process to adopt a permanent regulation. The New Jersey Register published a public notice about the hearing on March 19.
The hearing will start at 10 a.m. on May 10 in the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs headquarters in Newark. Requests can be made to speak to the division by May 4. Written comments have also been encouraged. Some time will be provided for people to speak who have not pre-registered with the division.
Synthetic marijuana is usually sold in small packets in sizes ranging from approximately 500 milligrams to three grams. The packets usually contain a mixture of plant and herb materials coated with chemical agents that affect the brain. The products are typically labeled as potpourri or incense to mask their true nature from law enforcement.
Synthetic marijuana packets and other possible designer drugs have been sold at boardwalk novelty shops, gas stations and other locations throughout the state. The packages usually bear labels claiming that the contents are not affected by any existing state or federal ban, creating the false impression that they can be legally sold.