PAWTUCKET — They’re usually next to the cash register. Packages that look like they contain incense or potpourri and are labeled “Bliss,” “Fake Weed,” “Lunar Wave,” “White Lightning” or other colorful names. Yet, police say these are synthetic stimulants that are not only harmful, but are now illegal to sell in Rhode Island.
Pawtucket Police have just sent out a letter to all local retailers notifying them of a new state law that makes it illegal to manufacture, sell or use certain synthetic narcotics. Gov. Lincoln Chafee signed the law (RIGL, Statute 21-28-2.08) into effect on July 17.
“These items were not banned in Rhode Island before, and while there has been some press and news articles written, there may be some store owners who don’t realize they are now illegal,” said Pawtucket Police Major Arthur Martins. “We’re taking this opportunity to educate our store owners.”
These banned substances include synthetic cannabinoids and synthetic cathinones, which have been placed on the list of Schedule I narcotics that are regulated by law. Popular street names for these substances are “synthetic pot,” “herbal incense,” “spice” and “bath salts.” In addition to causing serious health problems, police say these products have been known to cause users to become delirious and violent.
Pawtucket Police say they will soon begin to strictly enforce this new law and prosecute anyone who manufactures, distributes, sells or possesses these illegal chemical compounds. However, they are now offering local merchants the chance to voluntarily turn in these products so they can be disposed of properly, without any legal repercussions.
Merchants and businesses choosing to voluntarily surrender these banned products to the Pawtucket Police Department will not be charged with a criminal offense. Anyone with these banned items in their store is asked to contact the Pawtucket Police at 401-727-9100, ext. 726, to arrange a pickup time. Police officers will stop by and take custody of the items.
“We will soon be starting enforcement checks,” said Martins. “We’re offering merchants a short window in which to turn these items in.” He added that any individual(s) or business found in possession of, or offering for sale, or selling these illegal substances could face punishment which may include arrest, imprisonment, fines, and civil or criminal forfeiture of assets.
Martins said that while he doesn’t think the synthetic narcotics are a huge problem in the city, the police have investigated several recent incidents where individuals exhibited bizarre behavior due to being under their influence. “This is the type of behavior that is not typical of alcohol consumption or other types of drug use. The people are delirious, and sometimes violent,” he said.
According to a drug fact sheet provided by police, these banned items include K2 or “Spice,” which is a mixture of herbs and spices that is typically sprayed with a chemical compound similar to THC, the psychoactive ingredients in marijuana.
This herbal product is usually sold in small, silvery plastic bags of dried leaves and marketed as incense that can be smoked. Psychological effects are similar to those of marijuana and include paranoia, panic attacks and giddiness. Physical effects include increased heart rate and increase in blood pressure.
The other type of banned synthetic drug is “bath salts” or designer cathinones — products containing chemicals which are synthetic derivatives of cathinone, a central nervous system stimulant found naturally in the khat plant.
These “bath salt” stimulant products are sold in powder form in small plastic or foil packages of 200 and 500 milligrams under various brand names. One type, Mephedrone, is a fine white, off-white, or slightly yellow-colored powder. It can also be found in tablet and capsule form. Another type, MDPV, is a fine white or off-white powder.
Bath salts are usually ingested by sniffing or snorting. They can also be taken orally, smoked, or put into a solution and injected.
People who use these substances have reported agitation, insomnia, dizziness, depression, paranoia, delusions, suicidal thoughts, seizures and panic attacks. Because cathinone derivatives act as central nervous system stimulants, they can cause rapid heart rate, chest pains, nosebleeds, sweating, nausea and vomiting.
To find out more about the new law, refer to Rhode Island General Laws, Statute 21-28-2.08.