MOUNT VERNON — An Ohio House Bill that never made it to its first committee meeting in 2010 has new life in 2011 as 90th District Rep. Margaret Ann Ruhl continues her push to make “Spice” or K2 — a synthetic form of marijuana — illegal to possess, use or sell.
The substance is a mixture of spices sprayed with a synthetic form of marijuana. Users will smoke the substance in ways similar to ingesting pot.
Last week, the House Criminal Justice Committee unanimously voted to approve the bill which will be presented to the full House of Representatives for a vote today.
“I started working on this bill last May in the previous General Assembly,” said Ruhl in a press release. “This is a big step forward. To see it finally move out of committee with so much support from the other members gives me great optimism.”
Ruhl’s mission to take Spice off store shelves came after talking with Knox County Assistant Prosecutor Chip McConville about the dilemma he was facing with charging juveniles using the substance even though it was legal to purchase.
“The way we have been charging this is abuse of harmful intoxicants,” said McConville who prosecutes juvenile cases. “It allows charges to be brought for people who are using otherwise legal things to get high — things like paint or canned air. You have to have the purpose of wanting to get intoxicated.”
The first usage of the substance through the Knox County Juvenile Court appeared in May 2010, according to McConville. Since then, a dozen more charges were filed against youth for abusing harmful intoxicating substances. However, more than 20 cases of violating probation was filed as a result of using Spice.
“This stuff is dangerous — you don’t know what’s in it. It actually sends kids to the emergency room,” McConville said.
Of the first three cases brought to McConville’s attention, four of the six youth involved were taken to the emergency room for adverse reactions to the substance.
“They were pretty unresponsive with racing heart beats,” McConville said. “One kid came into the courtroom the same day or the next day and said, ‘I thought I was going to die.’”
Although exact reasons why teens are using Spice instead of marijuana is unknown, it is believed part of the popularity is due to the inability to detect Spice through typical drug tests. However, since Spice’s popularity has increased, so has work in the lab which has created markers that detect the presence of the synthetic form of marijuana.