Iteam: How crime lab tests Synthetic Marijuana's legality

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Department of Health & Hospitals Secretary Kathy Kleibert signed an Emergency Rule Thursday morning adding eight more Synthetic Cannabinoids, commonly known as Synthetic Marijuana, to the state's banned list.

"This Emergency Rule immediately empowers law enforcement officials to remove these dangerous substances from commerce," Secretary Kleibert says. "We have heard of many instances of overdoses or health complications associated with these substances in recent weeks, necessitating immediate action to protect the health and safety of the public."  

"We have something that is plaguing our community -- that something is the distribution and sale of Synthetic Marijuana," said East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner Dr. Beau Clark.

Dr. Clark said more than 100 individuals have been treated in local emergency rooms suffering from life-threatening symptoms from Synthetic Marijuana.  

It's the designs on the packets that attract people, but the fine print on every packet reads "Not for human consumption."

Once law enforcement confiscates Synthetic Pot, it's then taken to the State Police Crime Lab to be tested for whether the ingredients are legal or illegal.

That process starts with scientists placing small samples of the dry component in two separate test tubes. Then, the scientist adds a different solution to each tube, mixing the compound with the solution.  That allows the drug, if any, in the Synthetic Marijuana to extract from the dry compound.

That sits for about a minute and then the liquid part is extracted into a smaller tube.  Cap that off and it goes off to a machine that's called a GC-Mass Spec.  In a matter of three to four hours, the results come back and the scientists check if the ingredient in the tube is on the state's banned substance list.

If so, police get to keep the Synthetic Marijuana.  However, if the ingredients are not on the banned list, sometimes police are forced to give back everything they confiscated.

For instance, some manufacturers purposely advertise "this product does not contain any prohibited ingredients" on the packets.

But District Attorney Hillar Moore is planning to use a law already on the books to begin prosecuting any and all Synthetic Marijuana, regardless of the ingredients.

"If someone has produced it and manufactured it and put it on the shelves and made it look like Synthetic Marijuana, then it should be covered by that statute," said Moore.

That statute is L.R.S. 40:961(8) and says, "Controlled substance analogue means a substance the chemical structure of which is substantially similar to the chemical structure of a controlled dangerous substance in Schedule I or II of R.S. 40:964; which has a stimulant, depressant, or hallucinogenic effect on the central nervous system."

Moore plans to use that statute as a blanket to outlaw any and all Synthetic Marijuana.

The eight banned ingredients are also in House Bill 229 that's proposed in the current legislative session.

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