New Jersey's Bans on Synthetic Marijuana and "Bath Salts" Drugs Leads to Significant Decline in Reported Incidents
Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa today announced that, according to data collected by the New Jersey Poison Information & Education System, and by the State Police Office of Forensic Science, reported incidents involving synthetic marijuana and so-called "bath salts" drugs have significantly declined since the State banned them.
"Before we took action to ban these dangerous drugs in New Jersey, they were sold as a so-called 'legal high' by shady retailers with no regard for their catastrophic side effects," Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa said. "Today it is unambiguously clear that, here in New Jersey, synthetic marijuana and 'bath salts' are just as illegal as cocaine or heroin. Thankfully, the numbers demonstrate that our bans on these drugs are working."
Eric T. Kanefsky, Acting Director of the State Division of Consumer Affairs, said, "We gave law enforcement the tools and support they needed to fight the distribution and manufacture of these drugs. As a result of these efforts, anyone pushing these toxic designer drugs now will be prosecuted in the same manner as those selling traditional street drugs."
Decline in Synthetic Marijuana Incidents
Six months ago, on February 28, 2012, New Jersey became the fourth state to comprehensively ban all of the hundreds of possible variants of synthetic marijuana, by order of the Director of the State Division of Consumer Affairs. Since then:
- Cases of individuals being exposed to synthetic marijuana, as reported to New Jersey's Poison Control hotline, have declined by 33 percent. (From March 1 through August 31, 2012, NJPIES received a total of 46 calls from emergency rooms, doctor's offices, and private residences, about individuals who knowingly used or otherwise ingested synthetic marijuana – compared with a total of 69 cases during the same six-month period in 2011).
- The State Police Office of Forensic Science has seen a 77 percent decline in the number of synthetic marijuana incidents submitted by law enforcement – even as the number of drug submissions overall is up about 10 percent over last year. (In March 2012, the Office of Forensic Science received 83 individual samples of synthetic marijuana substances submitted for testing by law enforcement agencies from across New Jersey – compared with just 19 submissions to the Office in July 2012).
Decline in "Bath Salts" Incidents
New Jersey banned "bath salts" drugs on April 27, 2011, also by order of the Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. Since then:
- Cases of individuals being exposed to "bath salts," as reported to New Jersey's Poison Control hotline, have declined by 66 percent. (New Jersey's first reported cases of "bath salts" use occurred in January 2011. After the drug first appeared in reports to NJPIES, the number of reported incidents in New Jersey rose dramatically during the first four months of 2011 – but markedly declined after the Division banned them. This year, NJPIES data indicates just 18 reported cases in which individuals knowingly used or otherwise ingested "bath salts" drugs between January 1, 2012 and August 31, 2012 – compared with 53 cases during the same eight-month period last year).
Synthetic marijuana and "bath salts" drugs are associated with alarming symptoms including dangerous side effects including violent seizures, dangerously elevated heart rates, anxiety attacks, and hallucinations. Published reports indicate users have committed suicide, suffered fatal injuries, or committed disturbing acts of violence, under the influence of these drugs.
NJPIES data indicates that, although reported exposures have fallen in New Jersey, synthetic marijuana and "bath salts" drugs continue to be associated with alarming symptoms:
- In 2011 and 2012, 87 percent of reports to NJPIES about exposure to synthetic marijuana, were called in from healthcare facilities.
- During the same time period, 84 percent of reports NJPIES about exposure to "bath salts" were called in from healthcare facilities.
The Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs banned synthetic marijuana and "bath salts" drugs by separate Orders that added them to the list of Schedule I Controlled Dangerous Substances in New Jersey. (For details, see the synthetic marijuana press release and the "bath salts" press release).
In each case, the drugs were immediately banned by a temporary order that was to remain in effect for 270 days, while the Division pursued the administrative steps necessary to adopt a regulation that would make the ban permanent. The immediate, temporary Order on "bath salts" drugs took effect on April 27, 2011; and the "bath salts" ban became permanent by the Division's adoption of a regulation on December 19, 2011.
The Division's temporary order banning synthetic marijuana took effect on February 28, 2012. The Division intends to adopt a regulation, permanently banning these drugs, before the expiration of the temporary order. Anyone wishing to submit a public comment on the rule proposal, published in the New Jersey Register, may do so in writing no later than the public comment period ends October 5, 2012, by writing to Eric T. Kanefsky, Acting Director, New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, P.O. Box 45027, 124 Halsey Street, Newark, NJ 07101.
The ban on synthetic marijuana was only the fourth in the nation to include both broad and specific language to comprehensively cover all of the hundreds of possible variants of synthetic chemical compounds that mimic marijuana's effect on the brain.
For much more information on the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs' initiative to stop the use of synthetic marijuana, so-called "bath salts," and other designer drugs, view the Division's website on designer drugs.
For information on the Division's initiative to halt the diversion and abuse of prescription drugs, view the Division's New Jersey Prescription Monitoring Program website, and the Division's Project Medicine Drop website.
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