June 20, 2018
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Bangor lawmakers seek to avoid another bath salts scourge by proposing synthetic pot ban

By Christopher Cousins, BDN Staff

AUGUSTA, Maine — Products that are promoted as synthetic marijuana would be banned in Maine under a bill proposed by Bangor-area legislators who are trying to avoid another bath salts-like drug crisis.

Rep. Adam Goode, D-Bangor, who is the bill’s chief sponsor, said a constituent who is a social worker, Scott Dufour of NFI North Inc., suggested the bill in an effort to ban substances marketed as “Spice” or “K2” before their use in Maine becomes a more serious problem.

“I have seen the impact of these toxic, chemically altered drugs on some of Bangor’s most vulnerable citizens,” Dufour said. “The fact that these drugs are legally and, in my opinion, disingenuously being sold as incense and potpourri by local retailers was extremely upsetting.”

The state, and the Bangor area in particular, are in the midst of the terrible proliferation of another synthetic drug, bath salts, which was also legal for purchase until the Legislature banned it on an emergency basis in 2011. Congress followed suit later that year.

Goode said his bill, An Act to Prohibit Sale or Possession of Synthetic Cannabinoids, targets drug manufacturers who circumvent existing drug laws by repeatedly making small changes to the recipes for products known as “Spice” or “K2.” Goode’s bill would make those substances illegal as Schedule Z drugs.

“Spice” and “K2” are designed to mimic marijuana but according to Goode have been found to cause prolonged psychosis and exacerbate existing health disorders. Currently, the substances are legal for purchase and sold by retailers.

“I’m just trying to be ahead of the curve,” said Goode. “Obviously there was a big issue with bath salts in Bangor. While this substance is not the same thing as bath salts, it’s not a secret that people who are involved with pushing these types of synthetic drugs often change what the makeup is.”

Among the bill’s 10 co-sponsors are Rep. Aaron Frey, D-Bangor; Rep. John Schneck, D-Bangor; Rep. Tori Kornfield, D-Bangor; Rep. Jim Dill, D-Old Town; and Sen. Geoff Gratwick, D-Bangor.

“I hope that the current Legislature does as much as possible to prevent future public health threats posed by the use of Spice or K2,” said Frey in a press release. “We need to ensure that there are no loopholes that allow these dangerous products to be sold.”

Bangor Police Department Sgt. Jim Buckley said Wednesday that he and other officers are aware of the presence of synthetic marijuana in Bangor, though he didn’t have information about any serious incidents related to it.

“It’s here,” he said. “You can buy it in the local shops downtown. Because of the bath salt thing, I think [the Legislature] is trying to get ahead of it.”

Goode said he has been working with drug and law enforcement experts to devise a law that would outlaw synthetic pot along with the next intoxicating substance that comes along, but that has been elusive. Besides, he said his bill doesn’t fix the problem at its source.

“It’s hard to predict the future when you’re a policy maker,” said Goode. “Just banning things and creating stiff penalties doesn’t fix substance abuse.”

Goode’s bill was referred by the Legislature on Tuesday to the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.

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