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Banning Synthetic Marijuana

August 20, 2012
A marijuana plant reaches toward the sun.

During the past several years, a surge of young adults and teens have skirted the illegality of marijuana by purchasing and smoking instead a synthetic form of the drug. Formerly sold in convenience stores around the state, synthetic marijuana, or "spice", does lead to a high, but its use comes at a sometimes fatal cost.

This past March, Chase Corbitt Burnett, a 16-year-old honor student and soccer player from Fayette County, died shortly after experimenting with the drug.

In response to Burnett's death, the General Assembly last legislative session passed and Governor Nathan Deal signed into law Senate Bill 370, a measure dedicated as Chase’s Law. Under Chase's Law, the ingredients used to make synthetic marijuana are listed as Schedule I drugs. This means that even possessing synthetic marijuana is a felony. The prison sentence for possession of the substance ranges from one to 15 years.

Since the law's passage on March 27, law enforcement officers and convenience store owners have worked to pull all stocks of spice from shelves. In future, if police find a carrier intends to distribute synthetic marijuana, the first conviction comes with a possible prison sentence of five to 30 years, with following convictions carrying a possible sentence of 10 to 40 years or even life in prison.

Learn more about synthetic marijuana and its effects on health by visiting the National Institute on Drug Abuse or reading a fact sheet from the Office of National Drug Control Policy.