It is now illegal in North Carolina to sell, manufacture or possess controversial synthetic drugs. North Carolina will join 28 other states in the ban on the substances.
On Wednesday, a law went into effect that bans the sale of synthetic marijuana and cocaine, sold under the guises of “herbal incense” and “bath salts,” which were reportedly used as recreational drugs. The two substances are now Schedule I controlled substances.
“I think it’s a good decision our legislators made,” said Macon County Sheriff Robert Holland, who visited local businesses last January, asking them to stop selling the synthetic marijuana products. “They heard the complaints from the citizens and took action.” Holland added that to date, there have been no complaints about the sale of the drugs however the department will be on the lookout for them.
Depending on the amount and the type of the drugs, penalties can range from misdemeanors to felonies.
Anyone who sells, manufactures, delivers, transports or possesses 150 to 750 grams of synthetic cannabinoids will be charged as a felon and will face a 25-30 month prison sentence and a minimum fine of $5,000.
Likewise, having 28 grams or more of the substances found in synthetic cocaine (mephedrone or MDPV) carries a felony charge and persons with the substance can be sentenced to 70-84 months in prison and fined no less than $50,000.
According to the Carolinas Poison Center, use of the drugs was on the rise before the ban went into effect, reporting as many calls on MDPV in the first two months of 2011 as in all of 2010 combined. Use is especially prevalent in Cumberland and Onslow counties.
“There is significant toxicity associated with the use of these products,” said North Carolina Poison Control Center (NCPCC) Dr. Anna Dulaney. Last year, 236 calls related to “bath salts” were received by poison control centers throughout the U.S.
According to officials, the drugs have been the cause of illnesses, hallucinations and deaths, largely among teens and young adults.
“The ban is important because people were putting this stuff into their bodies,” said Macon County Sheriff’s Detective Brian Leopard. “Nobody knows the long term effects. It was harming people and kids were getting a hold of it … It was causing lots of problems in the community.”
The threat will be suppressed with this band, however, it isn’t gone yet. “As soon as it’s illegal, there will be people with the money and resources to produce another product,” said Holland.