Hazelwood Strengthens Its Synthetic Marijuana Law, Determined to Beat Persistent Manufacturers
Definitions in the city's existing law makes it easy for K2 pushers to distribute in Hazelwood and it not be illegal so long as the product formula changes. That will soon change, pending a second reading and final vote.
Call it what you want: K2, Spice, Genie. But synthetic marijuana has grown to become a household name, even though it is illegal in Missouri.
But Hazelwood officials are not sitting back and watching. They're combating the problem head-on.
Hazelwood introduced an amendment to the existing law banning synthetic marijuana broadening the definition of synthetic marijuana so that no matter how chemists alter the foundation of the drug, all versions will remain illegal.
"We have a problem where chemistry stays one step ahead of legislature," said Hazelwood attorney Kevin O'Keefe. "We have a law on the books with specific definitions.
"Chemists keep tweaking their product and the state and the feds have to keep going back and changing the laws on what is illegal."
The City of Hazelwood passed an ordinance making synthetic marijuana illegal to sell or use in May 2011 as versions of it were popping up in area convenience stores for sale.
"This will be giving the police more power against synthetic marijuana," said Hazelwood City Manager Edwin Carlstrom who said Hazelwood's law was written very technically based on the state version.
"Essentially we are taking terms out of the ordinance so it's always current," O'Keefe said.
Nationwide state legislatures are outlawing two classes of synthetic drugs: synthetic cannabinoids/marijuana (a.k.a. “Spice” or “K2”) and substituted cathinones (a.k.a. “bath salts”).
Missouri is one of at least 44 states that have already banned one or both of these substances. Legislation in 2009 and 2010 targeted specific versions of the drugs. Missouri's law was enacted in 2010. In response to the ongoing issue, 2011 and 2012 legislation targets entire classes of substances and aims to prevent new formulations of synthetic drugs from remaining unregulated, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Hazelwood has bans on both bath salts and synthetic marijuana.
Synthetic cannabinoids (marijuana) are chemically engineered substances similar to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana. When smoked or ingested, synthetic cannabinoids can produce a high similar to marijuana.
The National Conference of State Legislatures states initially synthetic marijuana was developed for pain management research and the effects of cannabis on the brain, but have recently become a popular alternative to marijuana. It is sprayed on dried herbs.
As more and more states ban the drug it has taken eight different forms based on the type of chemical alteration made to the original substance: tetrahydrocannabinols; naphthoylindoles; naphthylmethylindoles; naphthoylpyrroles; naphthylideneindenes or naphthylmethylindenes; Phenylacetylindoles; cyclohexylphenols; and benzoylindoles.
The changes to Hazelwood's law will take effect after a second reading and final council vote. The next Hazelwood City Council meeting is December 5.