It took almost no time for local law enforcement agencies to check convenience stores for synthetic marijuana products once Gov. Nathan Deal signed Chase’s Law on March 27. The law banning the sale of the substance sometimes referred to as “Spice” 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.
It was a measure designed to outlaw the sale of all forms of synthetic marijuana sold in Georgia. Prior to the law’s passage and Deal’s signature the substance had been available for purchase without restriction by adults and teenagers alike.
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. But Chase’s Law changed all that. Synthetic marijuana is now a Schedule I controlled substance. As such, possessing, attempting to possess, selling, distributing or giving the drug to another person is now a felony, according to the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office.
The ink had not dried from Deal’s signature before local law enforcement agencies were visiting stores.
Fayette County Sheriff’s deputies and officers with the Fayetteville Police Dept. on March 28 conducted an operation informing store owners of the new law and removing synthetic marijuana products from store shelves. Officers and deputies located and removed numerous packets of the drug, according to Fayetteville Det. Mike Whitlow.
Sheriff’s spokesman Brent Rowan said deputies and officers focused their efforts on educating store owners about the amended law. The store owners were provided a copy of the new law and given the opportunity of surrendering any synthetic marijuana they currently had in stock, Rowan said.
Also on March 28, Peachtree City Police Capt. Rosanna Dove said officers visited more than half a dozen stores in the city after the law was signed and found that store owners had already complied with the new law.
“A few of them had taken the items off the shelf after Chase passed away,” Dove said. “Others took the items off the shelves as soon as they heard the law had passed.”
Subsequent visits paid to additional stores found none of the Spice products for sale, Dove added.
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 had 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 had been sold in gas stations and convenience stores throughout the state and were 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 of the name, the variations of what is now called Spice or synthetic marijuana also carried a notice on the label that the product was not for human consumption, Israel said, meaning that until the new law was signed there was no prohibition against a 14-year-old purchasing the product.
“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.”
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.