CONYERS -- The Rockdale County Sheriff's Office and Conyers Police Department took steps last week to ensure that local stores are in compliance with an emergency ruling classifying newly discovered compounds of synthetic cannabinoids as Schedule I substances under the Georgia Controlled Substances Act.
Investigators and officers from the two departments visited every convenience store and novelty shop in Rockdale County Thursday to make sure that they were not selling products believed to be synthetic cannabinoids, also known as synthetic marijuana, according to a release from the RCSO. Only one store had items seized under the authority of the emergency ruling, but each store was made aware of the dangers that synthetic cannabinoids pose to the public.
"I am thankful for the cooperation of each store in this matter and pleased with the results," said Rockdale Sheriff Jeff Wigington.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced last week that the Georgia State Board of Pharmacy had adopted an emergency rule regarding the newly discovered compounds of synthetic pot.
"The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has determined that synthetic cannabinoids are now appearing throughout Georgia at an increased level," according to John Bankhead, spokesman for the GBI. "Documented Poison Center reports show that users of synthetic cannabinoids can experience symptoms that include, but are not limited to, the following: altered mental status, lethargy, short-term coma, seizures and psychosis."
In all, 43 packages of two different types of products labeled as hybrid smoking herbs were seized in Rockdale, according to the RCSO. One type retailed for $30 and the other type for $40, with instructions on how to smoke it. A sample of each will be sent to the GBI Division of Forensic Sciences for testing to determine if these products contain currently banned synthetic cannabinoid ingredients or to identify new ingredients that will be brought to the attention of the next Georgia General Assembly session. If the seized products do not fall under existing or new synthetic cannabinoid classifications, they will be returned to the store, according to the RCSO.
During the 2010 Georgia legislative session, the Legislature banned all forms of synthetic cannabinoids as Schedule I substances in the state.
"Manufacturers altered their formulas to bypass the effectiveness of the law," Bankhead explained. "During the 2012 legislative session, the Legislature revisited this issue and passed a more inclusive law which covered all variations of the chemical compounds within the synthetic cannabinoid products. However, manufacturers have now begun changing the molecular structure of the drug altogether in order to circumvent the current law."
Bankhead said the emergency rule was adopted in order "to protect the general health, safety and welfare of the citizens of the state of Georgia."
The new rule provides law enforcement with the authority to seize the synthetic cannabinoids, but it does not provide for criminal penalties or arrest authority.
"Criminal penalties will have to come through legislation passed by the Georgia General Assembly," Bankhead said.