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After ban, synthetic marijuana sales continue

Posted: October 19, 2012 6:08 p.m.
Updated: October 22, 2012 5:00 a.m.
Photo courtesy of CPD/

Synthetic marijuana, also known as K2, is sold in certain shops.


Nearly one year ago the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) Board took action on ‘bath salts’ and synthetic marijuana, also known as “spice” or K2. They designated three substances that are commonly known as “bath salts,” and five substances used to make synthetic marijuana as Schedule I controlled substances. 

Just after the measure went into effect on Oct. 24, 2011 Kershaw County Council was poised to vote on an ordinance as a precaution. 

“We were ready to pass the ordinance, but thought it prudent to wait and see what happened at the state level,” said County Councilman Stephen Smoak.

Since then the legislature passed a law in April 2012 (H. 3793, R. 158, A. 140 – Bath Salts, Synthetic Marijuana, and Schedule I Drugs) granting DHEC the authority to change the schedule of the banned chemicals at any time and such changes “have the full force and effect of law unless overturned by the legislature.”

Those items may have left the shelves, but according to Minnie Bullock of the ALPHA Behavioral Health Center, they are still being sold in gas stations “under the counter” here in Kershaw County, Richland County, Lee County and Chesterfield County.

Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews stated that Richland and Columbia have a “bigger problem with sales at head shops.” A head shop is a retail store that sells drug paraphernalia used for the consumption of recreational drugs and legal highs. Such retailers have also entered the online market. 

As sales continue, usage follows suit and the users of synthetic marijuana are more apt to not get caught.

“It is hard to enforce possession laws,” Matthews noted. “Arrests (for possession) are not made at the scene. All we can do is seize the substance and send it to SLED (South Carolina Law Enforcement Division) for analysis. Months can pass before we get a result.”

The combination of availability and lack of enforcement are tempting for users of the drugs, but according to Bullock users should keep in mind that these substances are very dangerous.

“People think that because they bought it at a gas station that it can’t really be very strong or dangerous, but they are wrong. There is a drastic variation in potency, combination of chemicals, and they often have deadly toxins mixed in. These substances are produced by criminals throughout Asia, Europe, and in the US. They (the producers) do not have any hesitation using dangerous chemicals in the production process,” said Bullock.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reported in May of this year that spice abusers who have been taken to Poison Control Centers had symptoms that include rapid heart rate, vomiting, agitation, confusion, and hallucinations. Spice can also raise blood pressure and cause reduced blood supply to the heart (myocardial ischemia), and in a few cases it has been associated with heart attacks. Regular users may experience withdrawal and addiction symptoms.

NIH also stressed in their report that “the chemical composition of many products sold as Spice is unknown, it is likely that some varieties also contain substances that could cause dramatically different effects than the user might expect.”



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