Bill now heads for governor’s desk
House Bill 813, a bill that would make it illegal to possess, manufacture, sell, use, and deliver synthetic cannabinoids has passed the North Carolina General Assembly much to the delight of many Macon County residents.
The synthetic cannabinoids, more commonly referred to as synthetic marijuana or “incense,” have garnered a lot of attention in the past few years. Incidents of pain and chaos have filled news headlines, but as of recently, a movement headed by local young people to outlaw the drug has stolen the attention.
Youths Adrian Martinez and Cassady Ledford recently held a meeting with Senator Jim Davis and Sheriff Robert Holland to express their concern over the sale and use of such a devastating substance. Synthetic marijuana has a hallucinatory effect that most users seek, but unwanted sideeffects like headaches, panic attacks, vomiting, blackouts, and even death can ruin the “high.”
“We just feel very blessed that the bill has finally come together,” said Martinez. “This is a great thing, not only for Franklin and our community, but for the whole state.”
Bills have moved through the state legislature in the past to ban the substance, but the efforts fell short.
“When they would ban it, they would ban it by name only,” said Martinez. “So you had producers who would change one chemical and bypass the law.”
The new law will be based on an Oklahoma law that bans any substance that can imitate a substance used to get high that attaches to brain receptors.
“I'm very thankful that it passed. We were so tired of seeing our friends and people we knew waste away from using it,” said Ledford. “When we first started trying to bring awareness to the bill, we were afraid that nobody would listen to a bunch of teenagers. After we spoke to Senator Davis, we started to see everything pick up steam. I'm really happy that it passed.”
Under the bill, anybody who knowingly manufactures, delivers, sells, imports into or exports from the state, or possesses with the intent to sell, deliver, or manufacture an imitation controlled substance will be charged with a felony. Any person who uses a substance outlined by the bill will face a class I misdemeanor. The bill will now move to the governor's desk. Once it is signed it will become law and according to officials, Mc- Crory does support the bill.
At the Macon County Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday night, county commissioners acknowledged the work that Ledford, Martinez and other young people had put in to spread awareness about the epidemic spreading through the area.
“Two years ago we started to get complaints about this stuff," said Commissioner Ronnie Beale. "This goes to show you that things can come together when people work together to get things done."
Sheriff Holland was on hand to offer his praise of the teenagers as well.
"We would sit down with parents who would ask, 'when are you going to do something about this legal stuff?' and it was frustrating because we couldn't do anything because it was legal," he said. "We've sat down with parents, prominent members of the community, who had children that were hooked on this stuff and we couldn't do anything. It was extremely frustrating. I can't tell you how proud I am of these guys. They took scrutiny for taking this stand and as Sheriff, I just want them to know how proud I am of them."
The commissioners presented the teens with a copy of the ratified bill that awaits governor's signature and a framed keep-sake resembling the Macon County flag.
The event that sparked this movement came when a friend's mother contacted the teenagers about her son who had become dependent on the drug.
"I'm just so thankful for everybody's involvement," the mother said after the award was presented. "My son was in bad shape because of this poison and thanks to his friends taking a stand and staying on him about it, he's back to normal now. He's working and happy again."
According to Holland, "bath salts" will also fall under the new law that will go into effect on July 1.