MARTINS FERRY - The city is looking into a policy to combat drug use in town. Council is reviewing sample ordinances that target the sale and possession of synthetic marijuana and dangerous substances.
Chief John McFarland said some states have already instituted such prohibitions and he eventually expects to see a statewide or even federal ban.
"My goal is to keep this stuff off the streets and out of the hands of kids," he said. "It's something we need to take control of."
There are several different ordinances for council to consider. All prohibit the possession or sale of both synthetic marijuana and the related cannabinoids that form its ingredients. These include AM cannabinoids, CP cannabinoids, JWH cannabinoids, and HU cannabinoids.
The chemicals mimic the effects of cannabis while posing a greater health hazard. People using synthetic marijuana will not trigger a positive result in a drug test for cannabis.
He noted similarities with the bath salts phenomena. Synthetic marijuana also goes by names such as K-2 or Spice. It is sold as an incense, but people have decided to smoke it. McFarland referenced doctor and hospital studies and emergency room reports suggesting synthetic marijuana has been associated with acute psychosis, worsening of previously stable psychological disorders, and may trigger a chronic disorder among vulnerable individuals such as those with a family history of mental illness.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported that some users have suffered extreme anxiety, paranoia, and hallucinations. The cannaboid compounds found in synthetic marijuana act on the same cell receptors as THC, while other compounds bind more strongly to those receptors, which could lead to more powerful and unpredictable effects.
In addition, the chemical composition of some products are unknown, in some cases different from what is listed on the packet, and may have dramatically unexpected effects.
"We just want to avoid a hazard to the public and to children," he said.
Currently it is not illegal to sell or possess synthetic marijuana in town. McFarland said two businesses that sell the substance. He noted the demand is high.
"These people will try anything in order to get a cheaper high," he said, noting other fronts in the fight against drug abuse, such as illicit use of prescription drugs.
McFarland said the ordinance may go into effect after the next council meeting.
DeFrank can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org