|Bill bans sale of synthetic drugs |
|Posted: Thursday, May 31, 2012 10:32 am |
BRISTOL – Synthetic drug sellers and makers now face felony jail time and fines up to $5,000 following a ceremonial legislation signing by Gov. Bill Haslam in front of Tennessee High School’s student body Monday.
Two bills sponsored by state Reps. Jon Lundberg and Tony Shipley — which address both synthetic marijuana and bath salts similar to controlled substances — are now law. Shipley’s bill took effect Monday, while the effective date of Lundberg’s legislation was April 27.
The law also allows authorities to declare synthetic drug businesses as a public nuisance.
Haslam indicated earlier this year he didn’t know that much about synthetic drugs, but then began hearing about student protests outside local head shops.
“I think one of the things that affected our thinking … was this is a big issue,” Haslam told reporters following the legislation signing at Viking Hall. “We had a student death up here, and we heard repeated tales from the emergency rooms here about how many patients they were seeing from bath salts or synthetic drugs. It really was something becoming way too commonplace. This place was the epicenter of it.”
Haslam’s administration included more than $300,000 in the recently passed state budget to pay for incarceration expenses in the law.
Those expenses were based on more than 60 people going into the Department of Corrections for a controlled substance or imitation controlled substance offense in each of the past 10 years.
The new laws and increased public focus on synthetic drugs, Lundberg said, apparently have scared off synthetic drug sellers.
He added synthetic drug cases in local emergency rooms have dropped dramatically.
“I think it’s had an impact that people know it’s illegal. … It hit us the worst,” Lundberg observed.
Still, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey warned the battle over synthetic drugs isn’t done.
“Just because we make it illegal … just because we have the tools to prosecute it, it doesn’t mean it’s going to go away,” Ramsey, R-Blountville, told THS students.