News Releases

Corrections Committee to Consider Proposal Co-Authored by Zakas Banning Synthetic Pot

STATEHOUSE (Jan. 10, 2011) - A proposal co-authored by State Sen. Joe Zakas (R-Granger) banning marijuana-like substances in Indiana and creating stiff penalties for using and selling the products will be considered by a Senate committee on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 57 will be heard by the Senate Committee on Corrections, Criminal and Civil Matters at 9 a.m. in Room 130 of the Statehouse.

"Increased use of dangerous marijuana-like substances has already caused local officials in northern Indiana take preventative measures and pass bans," Zakas said. "Synthetic drugs are a danger in our communities. While local bans are helpful, they offer limited solutions in terms of jurisdiction and penalties. To more effectively curb the use of these drugs, a comprehensive statewide ban is needed."

Synthetic cannabinoids are blends of herbs and chemicals. When smoked and inhaled, they mimic the effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) found in marijuana. These man-made mood-altering products are marketed as incense, aromatic potpourri or fertilizer and sold under product names like "Spice," "Mr. Smiley" and "Voodoo Magic."

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, intoxication from THC can cause distorted perceptions, impaired coordination, difficulty in thinking and problem solving, and trouble with learning and memory functions.

If passed into law, Zakas said SB 57 would add various chemical compounds used in synthetic cannabinoids to the state's controlled substances list, creating the same penalties for producing, distributing, selling or using the products as marijuana.

Indiana has the largest number of reported cases involving marijuana-like substances in the U.S., according to Drug-Free Marion County. As of June 30, there were 41 cases demonstrating the adverse effects of synthetic cannabinoids - hallucinations, rapid heartbeat, confusion and vomiting, among other effects - on youths in Indiana ages 6 to 19.

More than ten countries and at least ten states have taken legal action to ban or control 'Spice' and related products, and the Drug Enforcement Administration classified the chemicals used in synthetic cannabinoids as "drugs and chemicals of concern."

Sen. Zakas represents Senate District 11, which includes portions of St. Joseph and Elkhart counties.

Sen. Joe Zakas