Synthetic marijuana now banned
HUNTINGTON -- Synthetic marijuana, a fad drug that has come under scrutiny from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, is now banned in the city of Huntington.
And synthetic cocaine appears to be next.
Huntington City Council voted unanimously Monday to ban the sale of synthetic marijuana, which is available locally in adult-oriented shops. The vote comes on the heels of the DEA banning synthetic pot for up to 12 months so it can study the chemicals used in the drug to determine whether they should be permanently controlled.
The chemicals mimic THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. They are sprayed on the herbal blends, which are sold and marketed as incense. The DEA acted after receiving increasing reports about these products since 2009 from poison centers and law enforcement agencies.
Fifteen states already have banned synthetic pot, and the West Virginia Legislature is expected to follow suit when it reconvenes in January.
Huntington City Council members wanted to take swift action on the ban because of concerns that local retailers would stockpile synthetic pot before the federal ban takes effect next week. Although the local ban that was approved Monday does not include possession, it will be amended in the coming weeks, Councilman Scott Caserta said.
The ordinance includes up to a $500 fine and/or 30 days in jail for anyone caught selling synthetic marijuana.
In a related matter, the council advanced an ordinance banning the sale and possession of synthetic cocaine to a second reading.
Synthetic cocaine has appeared at a few local retail shops in the Tri-State in recent weeks. Lawmakers consider the drug, which is marketed as bath salts, to be far more dangerous than synthetic marijuana.
The chemical makeup consists of Lidocaine, a prescription drug used for cardiac patients or in anesthesia, and MDPV, a psychoactive drug with central nervous system-stimulating properties that some have called four times as potent as Ritalin.
"This shows that people will try to come up with every crafty way they can think of to get to our kids," Caserta said.
Huntington could be the first in a string of local governments to ban the fad drugs. Cabell County Sheriff Tommy McComas has said he will recommend that the Cabell County Commission take similar action if Huntington's ordinances against synthetic drugs are adopted.
Councilman Jim Ritter said he will urge the County Commission and Board of Education in Wayne County to do the same.
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