State clamps down on sale of synthetic cannabinoids

COVINGTON -- The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has announced that at the request of Gov. Nathan Deal, the Georgia State Board of Pharmacy has adopted an emergency rule classifying newly discovered compounds of synthetic cannabinoids as Schedule I substances under the Georgia Controlled Substances Act.

"The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has determined that synthetic cannabinoids is now appearing throughout Georgia at an increased level," said GBI spokesman John Bankhead in a printed release. "Documented Poison Center reports show that users of synthetic cannabinoids can experience symptoms that include, but are not limited to, the following: altered mental status, lethargy, short-term coma, seizures and psychosis."

Convington Police Department Public Information Officer Ken Malcom said officers have not observed large quantities of the substance locally.

"It's like other drugs, we hear about it first and eventually it reaches our area. We hope by the time it does get here, we have some laws in place with teeth in them to combat it," Malcom said.

He said it appeared the sale and distribution of the substance is "somewhat underground" and complaints that have come to their attention have been scarce, but they are keeping an eye on the situation.

During the 2010 Georgia legislative session, the Legislature banned all forms of synthetic cannabinoids as Schedule I substances in the state.

"Manufacturers altered their formulas to bypass the effectiveness of the law," Bankhead explained. "During the 2012 legislative session, the Legislature revisited this issue and passed a more inclusive law which covered all variations of the chemical compounds within the synthetic cannabinoid products. However, manufacturers have now begun changing the molecular structure of the drug altogether in order to circumvent the current law."

Bankhead said the emergency rule was adopted in order "to protect the general health, safety and welfare of the citizens of the State of Georgia."

The new rule provides law enforcement with the authority to seize the synthetic cannabinoids, but it does not provide for criminal penalties or arrest authority.

"Criminal penalties will have to come through legislation passed by the Georgia General Assembly," Bankhead said.

In other crime news, an employee of Applebee's on U.S. Highway 278 has been arrested and charged with theft by taking after a customer's cell phone was found in the employee's vehicle, according to a CPD incident report.

Chaniqua Angela Brooks, 22, of 3467 Salem Road, was arrested Tuesday night after a woman notified the CPD that her cell phone had been stolen.

The woman said she had left the phone on the table at Applebee's where she had eaten dinner with her family. Once outside, she realized she had left her phone and went back to the table and found that it had been cleared and the phone was gone. She used a GPS device to track the phone and it led her to the east side of the restaurant which had four cars parked there, the incident report stated.

The manager of the restaurant told responding officers that the waitress who had helped serve the woman with the missing phone had asked to go outside to her car to retrieve her Chapstick before police arrived and her car was parked in the spot the GPS was indicating the phone was located.

Officers asked permission from the waitress to search her vehicle and the phone was located, according to the report.