You’ve all heard by now the absolutely insane news story about synthetic drugs creating cannibalistic zombies in Miami. Lucky for us here in Louisiana, we knew better. Way back in 2010, we banned the sale, manufacture and use of chemicals used to make synthetic marijuana.
Zombies be gone!
You see, in 2010 we banned only the five most popular chemical compounds used in synthetic marijuana. Manufacturers quickly reacted to the law, and to avoid prosecution, came up with different formulations for the synthetic ingredients which still had marijuana-like effects, but were not banned under the law. Additionally, folks discovered a whole new group of synthetic drugs designed to mimic the effects of cocaine and ecstasy, and started marketing them as “bath salts”.
And so, in 2011, our wise legislature passed another new law designed to criminalize “entire groups” of chemicals that could be used to make the pseudo-marijuana and the bath salts. By expanding the law, all of the groups of ingredients used to make the fake marijuana and the bath salts were intended to be banned.
Zombies gone for good?
Not so fast…
The law seemed to work on the “bath salts”, but synthetic marijuana was going as strong as ever. In spite of what law enforcement viewed as a blanket prohibition of synthetic marijuana after the 2011 law, manufacturers found another loophole that allowed them to manufacture their products legally in Louisiana in the form of two compounds known commonly as UR-144 and 5FUR-144.
But as the industry started ramping up production and distribution of the new compounds, law enforcement started ramping up as well. Hundreds of individuals were arrested around the state. Operations were shut down. Bank accounts were seized and frozen. Countless man-hours and untold money was spent waging this new war on synthetic drugs. The problem was, most of the people who were arrested, and had their businesses shut down and property seized, weren’t breaking any laws. Chemists and law enforcement seemed to agree – UR-144 and 5FUR-144 were legal.
And so, in an effort to defeat the zombies for good, this session the Louisiana legislature has passed … wait for it … two new laws. Senator Fred Mills, Jr. is the author of both laws. SB195 adds UR-144 and 5FUR-144 to the list of banned compounds. But synthetic drug manufacturers be warned: SB61 creates an entirely new bureaucracy within the Department of Health and Hospitals to make findings, hold hearings, adopt rules, and issue stop order on sales, in an effort to identify and ban the new dangerous synthetic chemicals that will most certainly be researched and created to circumvent SB195.
The process contemplated by SB61 will take at least 30 days to complete, and will need to be completed for each new substance identified by the Department as being potentially dangerous, meaning the synthetic industry will always be at least a month ahead of any oversight.
It is starting to look like our legislators are chasing a problem they can never catch up with. But there is a solution.
Synthetic marijuana exists purely by virtue of marijuana’s illegality. It was developed by opportunistic entrepreneurs who saw a market for a product that satisfied their customer’s desire to smoke marijuana, but to do it “legally.” Why don’t we legalize the real stuff, which is far less harmful that the synthetic variety?
John Huffman is the organic chemist who invented synthetic marijuana. Actually, he invented more than 400 varieties of “cannabinoids”, all of which (along with the multitude of unstable strains that are popping up) the federal and most state governments are working feverishly to ban legislatively.
He says the way to end the problem is to legalize marijuana. I have blogged about this in the past and it bears repeating.
In an interview with ABC News, Huffman said that marijuana has the benefit of being a known quantity, and not a very harmful one. We know the biological effects of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana because they have been thoroughly studied. “The scientific evidence is that it’s not a particularly dangerous drug,” he said. However, it is the prohibition of this benign plant that drives people to the far more dangerous fake stuff.
“I talked to a marijuana provider from California, a doctor, a physician,” explained Huffman, “and he said that in California, that these things are not near the problem they are in the rest of the country simply because they can get marijuana. And marijuana, even for recreational use is quite easy to get in California, and it’s essentially decriminalized. And marijuana is not nearly as dangerous as these compounds.”
Sometimes democracy lags behind common sense. Electability doesn’t guarantee an understanding of the issues and the repercussions of well meaning legislation. People die in droves due to legal substances such as cigarettes, alcohol and prescription drugs. No one dies from marijuana, but now we have people dying from the poison that has filled the void made by marijuana’s prohibition.
Our legislators’ answers have come up short, year after year. And now, on the third try they seem to have resigned themselves to an acknowledgement that they can’t solve the problem. Their best thinking is to create an elaborate bureaucracy designed to plug the holes when they inevitably appear, rather than to simply drain the water that’s causing the dam to burst.
There you go legislators. Is that so hard to understand?