House Bill 57 will put the necessary tools into law enforcement hands to fight the synthetic drugs and will become effective the day it’s signed into law by the governor, according to Lance Dyer, whose 14-year-old son, Dakota, died last March after taking a synthetic drug and then shooting himself. Dyer, a local resident, has become an outspoken lobbyist for the legislation and testified last week before a House committee.
House sponsors of the bill include 68th District Rep. Dusty Hightower, R-Carrollton; 18th District Rep. Kevin Cooke, R-Carrollton; 67th District Rep. Micah Gravley, R-Douglasville; 40th District Rep. Rich Golick, R-Smyrna; 72nd District Rep. Matt Ramsey, R-Peachtree City; and 43rd District Rep. Sharon Cooper, R-Marietta.
Hightower said he became aware of the dangers surrounding the use of these drugs last year after being contacted by Dyer and hearing the story of his son’s death.
“Shortly after that call, I spoke to Rep. Matt Ramsey, who was working on a bill to ban the sale of certain types of chemical combinations that are being used as ‘synthetic marijuana,’” Hightower said. “That bill passed last year with wide support from both parties.”
However, Hightower said that chemists found a way around the bill by creating new chemical combinations that were not listed in the law.
“HB 57 adds new substances that have been formulated and used since the passage of Chase’s Law last year,” Cooke said. “The bill includes those new substances to the list of Schedule 1 controlled substances. These substances have proven to be very dangerous and deadly. Through this bill, we are trying to stop the production at the source. This is an ongoing battle, but we are trying to do our part to stop the manufacture and sale of these dangerous substances to our children here in Georgia.”
House Bill 57 attempts to give broader definitions to the banned substances rather than specific drug names, which the chemists easily find a way around.
Dyer, who has been asking lawmakers for better legislation, said the substances are being sold in convenience stores as incense or potpourri, with warnings that they’re “not for human consumption.” They are manufactured by spraying the chemicals on ordinary foliage, then drying it so it looks like marijuana and can be smoked. However, he said the products are given names, such as “Scooby Snacks” or “Zombie Killer,” and are being marketed in the social media to young people between the ages of 12-19.
Dyer said the common name given to these substances, “synthetic marijuana,” is really a misnomer, as these drugs have none of the effects of marijuana. He said these substances are more dangerous, often cause hallucinations, paranoia, psychotic breaks, violent rampages and kidney and liver damage.
“A boy in Texas, under its influence, jerked a dog off a leash and ate it alive,” Dyer said. “In another instance, a girl ran her car off the road at 120 miles per hour, saying Satan was chasing her.”
He said HB 57 will give law enforcement more tools to fight the drugs, but said additional legislation will be needed to prevent the drug manufacturers from “line iteming” the laws.
He said when the law lists certain banned substances, the drug makers simply change the formula just enough to make it legal since it’s not on the law’s list.
“I applaud the legislators and the governor,” said Dyer. “They’ve been in this fight the last three years. They tried line items with the best intentions.”
He said new legislation has been proposed which would get away from “line iteming” entirely and would classify any synthetic compound that produces euphoric effects as a Schedule 1 narcotic.
Dyer said the latest legislation wins a battle, but not the war against these substances.
“When we get a piece of legislation that doesn’t line item the chemicals and they’re not able to sell them in stores or on the Internet, that’s when we start to win the war,” he said. “We have to try to get ahead of the curve so that science can’t beat our legislation.”
Hightower noted that many cities, including Carrollton and Villa Rica, have their own laws, banning sales of these items within their city limits.