Synthetic Marijuana Could Be Banned in Los Angeles

Alleged synthetic marijuana
Alleged synthetic marijuana

UPDATE at 4:59 p.m. Friday, Aug. 26, 2016: The City Council moved forward with a possible ban. See details at the bottom. First posted at 7:01 a.m. Friday, Aug. 26, 2016.

Synthetic marijuana has been wreaking havoc on downtown L.A.'s Skid Row. Just this week, it's the suspected culprit in 14 hospitalizations.

Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch Englander has had enough and he plans to propose a city ban on the substance, also known as spice and K2, at today's City Council meeting.

"The use of synthetic cannabinoids, a type of manufactured drug that is sprayed onto plant material and smoked like a cigarette or marijuana, has significantly increased in the city of Los Angeles over recent months," according to a statement from the councilman's office. "This drug is far less expensive and far more dangerous than natural marijuana and can often cause serious side effects."

His proposal will ask the City Attorney to draft an ordinance that would prohibit the sale, distribution and production of synthetic marijuana and related drugs, Englander's spokeswoman said.

It's not clear what effect such a ban would have on Skid Row, where spice joints are openly sold for $1. Police generally have better things to do downtown. But local prohibition could provide them with a tool to shut down hot spots and dealers. Englander is a reserve officer in the Los Angeles Police Department.

It's also not clear how the law would interact with federal regulations, which prohibit synthetic marijuana. U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman Timothy J. Massino said the agency has already prohibited 29 types of spice, known technically as synthetic cannabinoids.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, those who overdose on the drug can experience "ongoing psychotic symptoms, including auditory and visual hallucinations, paranoid delusions, odd or flat affect, thought blocking, disorganized speech, thoughts of suicide, insomnia, slowed reaction times, agitation, and anxiety."

Englander's office says synthetic marijuana has been responsible for more than 50 overdoses on Skid Row. They sometimes happen in clusters, as they did on Monday, on Aug. 19, and in April, according to reports.

UPDATE at 4:59 p.m. Friday, Aug. 26, 2016: The City Council adopted an emergency measure that directs the City Attorney's Office to draft a synthetic marijuana ban. That prohibition ordinance would need to be approved by the council.


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