By Brandon Moseley and Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
The Alabama Legislature gave final bipartisan passage today to a bill that outlaws the possession and sale of synthetic marijuana and other so-called designer drugs. The bill was SB208 in the Senate and HB 158 in the House. The Alabama law will be one of the strictest in the country when it is signed into law by Governor Robert Bentley (R).
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange (R) said, “I am pleased that we have gained passage of this legislation, which is vital for public health and safety. When easy availability over store counters was endangering the people of Alabama, we took action with the State Department of Public Health to regulate and fight these dangerous substances. The power of this law will give officers better tools to combat this threat and to provide strong penalties for offenders.”
Sen. Arthur Orr (R) from Decatur sponsored the bill in the Senate. “We believe that law enforcement now has the tools to bring the era of synthetic drugs to a halt and in doing so if just one young life is spared the effects of such drugs it will be a great thing.”
Rep. Blaine Galliher (R) from Rainbow City said, “My area has been particularly hard hit by these drugs and I hope what we have done will turn the tide and see these synthetic drugs eradicated from our state.”
Rep. Allen Farley (R) from McCalla said, “As a former law officer I think this legislation is long overdue. I want to thank the Alabama District Attorneys Association for their help in drafting this legislation and making it the strong bill that it is. We should see an immediate decline in these drugs following Governor Bentley signing the bill into law.”
Alabama District Attorneys Association President Chris McCool said, “Hundreds, maybe thousands of young lives have been damaged by these synthetic drugs, now we have a tool to not only stop the sale but the introduction of new drugs.”
Previous bills made the mistake of outlawing specific formulations of known synthetic drugs. A bill will pass and another slightly different formulation with the same physiological effects would immediately go on the shelves of convenience stores to replace the outlawed formulation in that state. This bill outlaws the known formulations but also has a “catch all” provision that would make analog substances which mimic the effects of the outlawed formulation also illegal.
Assistant Director of the Alabama Department of Forensic Science Angelo Della Manna said, “From the time when we drafted the bill to the point that it passed the House we have already had two cases and identified two new drugs that we have seen in Alabama that we didn’t know about. Just between the time that we drafted the bill to now.”
Asst. Director Della Manna continued, “They (the drug manufacturers) have really got the youth marketed and they call them Spice or K2 or Blow Your Mind and all these other names. They put them up on the counters,” in convenience stores.
The bill outlaws both the synthetic marijuanas (cannabinoids) that mimic the effects of the illegal plant leaves; but since these formulations are synthetic the effects are far less predictable and usually many times stronger than the cannabis plant and the “bath salts” which mimics to a degree the physiological effects of cocaine.
Director Della Manna explains, “In our bill, we not only address the synthetic cannabinoid, but also the bath salts, because they are doing the same kind of thing with bath salts. These drug dealers may go into Bed, Bath and Beyond and buy vanilla-flavored bath salts and then they lay out these crystals then take a Windex bottle and have the synthetic methamphetamine or whatever the synthetic drug would be in liquid form and they spray it on crystal and it sucks up the drug. Then they sell them as ‘bath salts.’ People take them and smoke them.” They are comprised of the chemical mephedrone, MDPV, and methylone and marketed under such names as “Ivory Wave,” “Purple Wave,” Vanilla Sky,” and “Bliss.”
AG Strange said, “Our citizens can be proud of the leadership by the sponsors of this important measure, Representatives Allen Farley and Randy Wood, and Senator Arthur Orr. I also want to thank Speaker Mike Hubbard and Rep. Blaine Galliher for getting this bill on the calendar in position for passage today, and the Alabama District Attorneys Association for its partnership in this effort.”
The Senate version of the bill passed in the Alabama House of Representatives with no opposition 99-0.
To read AG Luther Strange’s Press Release in its entirety: