Solicitor's office aims to crack down on synthetic marijuana

New synthetic marijuana laws

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - In April 2012, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley signed a law determining the product often known as "synthetic marijuana" to be illegal across the state.

But stores across the Grand Strand continued to sell the product by changing compounds in it to get around the law.

Now, Horry County Solicitor Jimmy Richardson says something can be done to close the loopholes in the law.

"As soon as they made synthetic cannibus illegal, the producers changed the formulas which made it much harder to test for," Richardson said.

Ever since synthetic pot, or pot pourri, came on the market, law enforcement has been playing catch up. Until now, it seemed they wouldn't be able to stop head shops from selling these "legal drugs" to kids.

One mother who lives in Little River, Mona Stamper, has a son who continues to recover from his addiction to the drug, a drug Stamper describes as terrifying.

"The terrifying part is that it's very addictive. Once it seems to be inhaled and then within a short amount of time they need to do it again. They have an urge. They have to have it again," Stamper said.

Lawmakers have been trying to build an all-encompassing law that would ban these drugs once and for all, but Solicitor Richardson said there's already a different law in place that could make any form of this product illegal.

"It's called the 'Controlled Substance Analog Law.' But it's a law that sort of attacks anything that's a knock-off drug. So, if you had synthetic marijuana that's a compilation of A, B, C and D and the producer changed it to A, B, C and E, then it would still fall under the analog which is also illegal," Richardson said.

These substances used to be sent to SLED for testing, which took weeks.  But now, Richardson says there's a new tool authorities can use that would test these substances right on the spot, whether police find it in someone's car, or being sold along Ocean Boulevard.

Richardson said he's focusing on this issue now because lately he's been inundated with calls pleading for help from desperate parents whose kids are using the product. Mona Stamper's son used to be addicted to the drug and she says people in the community need to be aware of how big the problem is.

"I never realized how many or how popular this was until it became a part of my life. And it's overwhelming. It's overwhelming," Stamper said.

But Richardson can't prosecute offenders unless police are on board, enforcing the law.

"Everybody is just fed up with the problem. It's not a victimless crime. It's a very dangerous problem," Richardson said.

Horry County Police Department tells WMBF News the department is going to move forward now with purchasing field tests that would enable officers to test for synthetic marijuana at traffic stops. If probable cause allows an officer to search a car, and a product found that tests at positive for synthetic marijuana, the person responsible for possessing the product could face criminal charges.

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