“It has really become somewhat of a scourge,” said former Rome mayor Ronnie Wallace, the designated consumer member of the board.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation indicates that synthetic cannabinoids are now showing up across the state in alarming numbers. Users can suffer altered mental condition, short-term coma, seizures and even psychosis.
“We’ve seen some of it,” said Rome Circuit District Attorney Leigh Patterson. “The game is to be able stay ahead of these folks,” Patterson said.
During the 2010 session of the Georgia General Assembly all forms of the substance were banned, but manufacturers changed the formulas to get around the law.
In the 2012 session, legislators passed another measure, known as Chase’s Law, in a bid to counter all the different chemical compounds that were known.
Manufacturers, however, have again altered the molecular structure of the drug to bypass the law. The GBI has identified the new recipes and worked with the staff at the Pharmacy Board to develop a new emergency rule that would, at least theoretically, address the latest variations of the substance.
The proposed rule specifically classifies five additional compounds as synthetic cannabinoids. They would be banned from over-the-counter sales, it says, due to scientific evidence that the public would be at risk if they aren’t regulated as controlled substances.
The rule alleges that “the pattern of abuse of these compounds and the scope of significance of that abuse support regulation; that there exists an imminent peril to the public health and welfare with regard to the abuse of these compounds.”
Patterson said she is aware of at least one local teenager who was hospitalized in the intensive care unit for a number of days after smoking one of the drugs.
She also said that a growing number of teenagers have to go on kidney dialysis for the rest of their lives as a result of smoking the drug.
The emergency rule, if adopted, would be effective for no more than 120 days.
“As an organization, we’ll have to re-adopt it every 120 days (until the law is changed),” Wallace said. “That’s not unusual.”
Wallace said that the Board of Pharmacy has gotten great support from Gov. Nathan Deal to work through the issue.