Baltimore County councilwoman seeks to tighten the ban on synthetic marijuana

TOWSON, Md. - A Baltimore County councilwoman is supporting legislation to tighten the ban on synthetic marijuana after prosecutors and police have raised concerns that manufacturers have found ways to skirt bans at the local, state and federal levels.

At a news conference Tuesday in Towson, Councilwoman Vicki Almond (D-Pikesville), said manufacturers  are slightly altering chemical compounds of the synthetic marijuana to make  their products legal.

Almond plans to introduce legislation today at the County Council work session with a vote tentatively set for Jan. 21.The county initially banned synthetic marijuana, also known as Spice or K2, in 2010 while the state's ban took effect Oct. 1, 2013.

"This is one more tool we are giving the police department and the state's attorney to help keep these dangerous drugs off the street," Almond said. "This is really a tool for education, especially for parents because most children are already pretty smart about these kinds of drugs."

Almond's bill already has the support of Baltimore County police Chief Jim Johnson and Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger. Both were at Tuesday's news conference.

"What's happened is that those who decide to buy and sell those products just change the compunds and circumvent the law," Johnson said. "We believe this bill will make our children and others safer."

Shellenberger said even after the initial ban, synthetic marijuana continues to be a problem in Baltimore County.  He cited the case of Lyaktaly Jamal as a prime example.

Jamal pleaded guilty in April 2013 to three counts of distribution of synthetic marijuana. Shellenberger said police became aware of Jamal, a Towson merchant at the time, in May 2012 after a Towson University student became ill after injecting Spice he purchased from Jamal.

"I appreciate we are working to change the law in Baltimore County," Shellenberger said. "Every time we get the law up to date the people making these drugs change them so they are no longer illegal. What this statute does is create a broader category to allow my office to be more aggressive going after individuals who sell this stuff."

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