Froerer's bill adds to 'spice' banned list

Feb 9 2012 - 12:22am

SALT LAKE CITY -- The day following a raid at a Midvale business for allegedly selling synthetic marijuana often called "spice," a legislative committee approved a bill that could make more chemicals illegal.

Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville, is sponsoring House Bill 254. It was unanimously approved by the House Health and Human Services Committee on Wednesday.

It now goes before the full House for further consideration.

Froerer sponsored a bill during the 2011 legislative session that made synthetic forms of cannabis smoked like marijuana, as well as bath salts used like cocaine, illegal. The bill banned 11 different chemicals.

Since then, law enforcement and health care providers have seen other types of chemicals not listed in the 2011 bill being used as marijuana.

Froerer's bill this year adds the use of benzylpiperazine to Schedule I of the controlled substances list and makes it illegal to use AM-2201, RCS-4, JWH-210, and JWH-203, which are considered research chemicals. Those chemicals have popped up in the past year.

It also allocates $203,000 to fund additional senior forensic scientists for the state's crime lab.

Jay Henry, laboratory director with the Department of Public Safety, said in Wednesday's committee hearing that spice cases made up only 1 percent of all cases to be analyzed in 2010 at the state's crime lab. It jumped significantly in 2011. Now it makes up 24 percent of all drug cases.

Spice cases are different from marijuana, methamphetamine or cocaine, Henry said.

It takes about an hour to analyze marijuana or several hours to analyze meth or cocaine, he said.

Spice can take up to a month because of all the different compounds it has, Henry said.

Froerer said he, along with the health care providers, is concerned with the long term effects spice can have on those who use it.

"No one knows how it will impact those who use it five (years), 10 years or 20 years down the road," Froerer said.

Froerer, Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clinton, and Rep. Curt Webb, R-Logan, were with the 50 officers from the Utah Attorney General's Office, Utah Department of Public Safety, U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and the Unified Police Department that executed the search warrant at Herbal Incense Connection in Midvale on Tuesday.

Agents seized approximately 150 pounds of herbs; 150,000 one-gram containers; and equipment allegedly used for manufacturing spice.

No arrests have been made, but an investigation is still ongoing into allegations of racketeering and illegal manufacturing and distribution of a controlled substance, according to a news release.

Froerer said he saw a whiteboard in the warehouse with the day's goal of selling 3,000 bottles.

Most of those who buy the synthetic marijuana are teenagers, with 11.4 percent of 12th-graders reporting they have used it, Froerer said.

Froerer said The American Association of Poison Control Centers reported receiving 2,906 calls because of spice in 2010 and 6,955 calls in 2011.

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