CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- State Police and other state officials want store owners to know they can't get around the law by selling new formulations of synthetic "bath salts" or marijuana.
"Just because someone has a laboratory report saying [synthetic drugs] are legal in the state of West Virginia, it doesn't mean it is," said Lt. Joe White of the West Virginia State Police. He said 99 percent of the synthetic marijuana and "bath salts" being sold in the state are probably illegal, no matter what the package may say.
State lawmakers recently passed House Bill 2505, which bans the sale of synthetic cannabinoids like K2 or "Spice," which are chemically similar to marijuana, and synthetic "bath salts," which mimic the effects of cocaine. Both types of synthetic drugs can lead to extreme paranoia, and have been linked to several deaths around the country, officials say.
The new state law just went into effect. White said some synthetic drug manufacturers and store owners think they can get around the law by selling drugs with a different chemical makeup than the 20 drugs listed in the bill.
But what they may not know is that state lawmakers also made illegal the sale of drugs with similar chemical blueprints.
"The Legislature got it right," said Dr. Mike O'Neil, a clinical pharmacist who helped work on House Bill 2505. O'Neil said the law was set up to catch manufacturers and merchants who claim their synthetic drugs are exempt from the law because their formulas are slightly different than those specifically mentioned in the legislation.
State Police held a press conference Tuesday to inform the public, store owners and managers about what the new law means. White said manufacturers trying to skirt the law are still probably making illegal drugs under the legislation, and store owners and clerks who are selling the drugs are probably still breaking the law.
Soraya McClung, director of the State Police crime lab, said State Police technicians have created a detailed database of the chemicals in commonly sold "bath salts" and synthetic marijuana. O'Neil said the database is the most detailed in the country.
So far, 33 of 34 brands of synthetic marijuana tested by State Police technicians have proven to be illegal under state law, even those claiming to be legal, officials said.
Despite the new law banning "bath salts" and synthetic marijuana, some store owners are still trying to sell new formulations of the synthetic drugs.
That's because they can make a lot of money at it. O'Neil said store owners can buy a bag of synthetic marijuana for $8 or $10, then turn around and sell it for $50.
"There's a very real profit to be made selling this product in a store," said White.
Reach Rusty Marks at rustyma...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.