Maryland lawmakers look to ban fake pot

Local,Maryland,Andy Brownfield

Products with names like "Scooby Snax," "Spice" and "K2" that are marketed as potpourri but give off a marijuanalike high when smoked would be illegal under four bills before Maryland's General Assembly.

Maryland is one of six states that doesn't ban synthetic marijuana. If D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray signs a bill waiting on his desk, Maryland would be the only place in the Washington area where the fake pot could be bought.

All of the bills aim to ban certain chemicals that mimic the psychoactive effects of THC, the key ingredient in marijuana. Drugmakers spray the chemicals onto plant matter and sell it to be smoked.

"Basically, as you talk to the different agencies involved in these cases, you're finding more and more availability to children," said Del. Ted Sophocleus, D-Anne Arundel County. Sophocleus, who is sponsoring one of the bills, said drugmakers aren't limited to spraying the chemicals on plants and can put them on products like candy.

However, some are worried about the challenges such a ban could present.

Del. Luke Clippinger, D-Baltimore, said because the legislation would ban certain chemicals, manufacturers could change the formula to make it legal again.

Clippinger, an assistant state's attorney, also worries about the strain the legislation could put on the legal system. Because drugmakers could change the formula to one that wasn't prohibited by law, prosecutors would need to bring in a toxicologist to testify that the defendant had a prohibited strain, and there aren't that many toxicologists in the state, he said.

Clippinger said Maryland will likely have a larger conversation about marijuana in the near future. The state reduced penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana last year, and Clippinger said more changes could be on the way.

"This isn't to say a ban shouldn't be done, but we need to look carefully at these challenges," he said.

The federal government outlawed many synthetic drugs last year -- fake pot included -- but states need their own laws to arrest and prosecute people at a local level.

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