PRESTONSBURG — Community leaders are weighing in on the dangers of synthetic marijuana following the third arrest in 12 months of a Floyd County man accused of trafficking in the potentially deadly substance.
Thomas J. Jones, 57, of Langley, was arrested Thursday after being charged for the third time in less than a year with trafficking in synthetic drugs.
According to a complaint filed by Prestonsburg Police Officer Adam Dixon, Jones was found in possession of a package of synthetic marijuana which had been shipped through FedEx. The package was shipped in care of Thomas Jones, Smoke Shack, to his other business of Jones, Pack & Associates, located in Prestonsburg.
Twice so far in the last 12 months, police have received complaints that the Smoke Shack on Route 80 was selling synthetic marijuana. In the past, police served a search warrant on the business and found over 700 packets of synthetic marijuana, with a value of just over $19,000.
On April 11, 2012, the Kentucky state legislature created emergency legislation with House Bill 481 to prohibit the trafficking in or possession of synthetic drugs, specifically “synthetic cannabinoids or piperazines,” “synthetic cathinones,” and “synthetic drugs.”
Packaging of the synthetic drugs shows an obvious disposition toward marketing to children and adolescents. One package even featured the cartoon character Scooby Doo. Most products dodge Food and Drug Administration inspection by labeing their packaging in bold letters, “not for human consumption.”
According to County Attorney Keith Bartley, labeling these designer drugs as “synthetic marijuana” is a false billing, and adds that the chemicals found in these substances more closely resembles heroin or PCP. Bartley says that ignorance about exactly what is in these designer drugs led legislators to make the penalties for trafficking in the substances too light.
Trafficking in synthetic drugs is a class D felony.
“Since synthetic marijuana has shown up in this area, and any time there is substance out there that could potentially harm kids, as a parent, a teacher, or a community leader, it concerns me,” says Allen Central High School Principal Larry Begley. “There are just so many unknowns about the effects synthetic marijuana can have over the course of someone’s lifetime. The scary thing about it is what we don’t know about it.”
A motion to suppress and immediately return the property was filed by Jones’ attorney in May of last year, after he claimed that the packets confiscated by police in their raids were not actually listed among those outlawed by House Bill 481. A laboratory report issued in response by the Kentucky State Police found the confiscated products “Head Trip,” “Mr. Nice Guy Mango,” “Scooby Snax” and “Mary Jane,” each contained substances consistent with a Schedule I drug.
According to a report released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, synthetic marijuana was linked to 11,406 drug-related emergency department visits in 2010.