Deal signs law that bans synthetic marijuana

Gov. Nathan Deal on March 27 signs Chase’s Law that outlaws all forms of synthetic marijuana. Present at the signing (from left) were GBI Director Vernon Keenan, House Speaker David Ralston, Sen. Buddy Carter, Sen. Ronnie Chance, Chase’s parentsYvette and David Burnett, Rep. Matt Ramsey and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle. Photo/Special.

Gov. Nathan Deal on March 27 signed Chase’s Law that bans all forms of synthetic marijuana in the state. The substance is sometimes referred to as “Spice” and, until now, has been available for purchase without restriction by adults and teenagers alike.

The law was named in memory of 16-year-old McIntosh High School honor student and soccer player Chase Corbitt Burnett whose body was found by his father March 4 in the hot tub at their home near Peachtree City.

“These synthetic substances pose an enormous risk to our public safety,” said Deal. “As the usage has dramatically increased, instances of violence, bodily harm and even death have risen with it. I applaud the GBI and the General Assembly for their fast work on this legislation, which addresses a pressing need.”

Chase’s father David Burnett in an interview published on YouTube said his son experimented with the synthetic marijuana product that he had purchased at a local convenience store. Burnett said his son apparently drowned after smoking the product, adding that he made a mistake and unfortunately paid the ultimate price.

“Chase was a great, great kid and a phenomenal son,” Burnett said.

The substance was legally sold in places such as convenience stores, the place where David Burnett said his son bought the Spice that he later smoked.

Spice is a substance that can reportedly be altered with the substitution of one or more different chemicals that presumably make it a “different” substance and thus made more difficult to regulate. To that end, the Burnett family asked that a law be passed by the Georgia General Assembly to ban the product from store shelves.

Synthetic cannabinoids contain marijuana-like chemical compounds combined with different forms of dried vegetation. These products are sold in gas stations throughout the state and are purchased and smoked by individuals in search of a legal high.

The substance today contains a different chemical compound that in 2003 was sold as “K-2.” A couple of the chemical compounds in the substance were altered in subsequent years and branded as “K-4,” Fayetteville Police Det. Scott Israel said recently. But regardless the name, the variations of what is now called Spice or synthetic marijuana also carries the notice on the label that the product is not for human consumption, Israel said, meaning that there is no prohibition against a 14 year-old purchasing the product.

According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, there were 6,959 calls nationwide related to adverse effects associated with synthetic cannabinoid compounds in 2011. This is nearly 2.4 times the amount of calls in 2010. Doctors have determined that synthetic marijuana can cause psychosis and increase the tendency of violent behavior. 

In September of last year, a Bulloch County woman was hospitalized after her boyfriend brutally assaulted her while under the influence of synthetic marijuana, said Deal spokesman Brian Robinson. Just this month, a 17-year-old in Washington state who was high on synthetic marijuana fatally stabbed a sleeping schoolmate because he felt “an urge to hurt someone,” Robinson said.