R.I. Assembly OKs AG's legislation banning certain synthetic drugs

By Jessica M. Karmasek | Jun 21, 2013

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (Legal Newsline) -- The Rhode Island General Assembly has approved legislation backed by Attorney General Peter Kilmartin placing synthetic cannabinoids and synthetic cathinones on the highly-regulated Schedule I drug list.

Kilmartin's measure also would ban the drugs' manufacture, sale and use in the state.

Often referred to or marketed as "synthetic pot," "herbal incense," "spice" and "bath salts," the drugs are much more dangerous than their naturally-occurring counterparts, the attorney general said.

Unlike the drugs they try to mimic, synthetic cannabinoids and synthetic cathinones have been known to cause people to become violent or delirious, and can also cause high blood pressure, vomiting and a number of deadly health complications, he said.

Given final passage was Senate Bill 2013-S 0454A, introduced by Sen. Stephen Archambault, a Democrat, at the request of Kilmartin, also a Democrat.

A companion House bill, 2013-H 5325A, sponsored by Rep. Joseph McNamara, a Democrat, is expected to be voted on by the full Senate soon, Kilmartin's office said Friday.

"The growing availability and use of synthetic drugs in our society, especially among young people, is alarming and deadly," Kilmartin said in a statement.

"Synthetic drugs are the new frontier in the war on drugs and we must provide law enforcement with the tools to effectively prosecute those who manufacture, distribute and possess the drugs and chemical compounds.

"I commend the House and Senate for recognizing the importance and urgency of enacting this legislation to stem the tide of synthetic drugs in our community."

The National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 16 cases of serious kidney damage caused by synthetic cannabis products last year, none of which were deadly but five of which required dialysis.

Additionally, the American Association of Poison Control Centers reported that in 2010 there were nearly 3,000 calls to poison control centers in the U.S. for exposure to synthetic cannabis.

This number ballooned to 7,000 calls in 2011 before a number of states started banning the drugs, decreasing the number of calls to 5,200 in 2012.

The legislation will now head to Gov. Lincoln Chafee's desk.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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