Concord, NH- Governor Maggie Hassan (D-Exeter) declared a state of emergency last Thursday in response to dozens of reported overdoses related to synthetic marijuana, often called “spice”.
The state of emergency will be in effect for 21 days unless an order is made to end the declaration early or to extend it. About 44 people have been reported to experience adverse reactions to the product; around half of those overdoses required hospitalization.
Spice is generally marketed as potpourri or incense on their packaging and often labeled “not for consumption”, but product users commonly smoke it, ingest it or brew it into tea because the products are sprayed with synthetic cannabinoids. The synthetic compounds have been claimed to mimic the effects of marijuana, but with more dangerous and intense reactions.
According to the press release, “The declaration of a State of Emergency triggers the Department of Health and Human Services public health powers under RSA 21-P:53 or any other applicable statute to investigate, isolate or quarantine and require the destruction of the commodity in question.” The overdoses have mainly been reported in the Manchester area, and a few have been documented in Concord.
“These spice products can be treated with a variety of things, some of them are showing up with controlled substances that make them illegal, but we don’t know that that’s true for all of them,” said Hassan.
Although spice has been legal to sell, police and health officials are now searching for the “Smacked” brand of spice with a bubblegum label. The state of emergency declaration allows for the bubblegum “Smacked” spice to be pulled from store shelves. There are several other brands and flavors of spice, but “Smacked” is the brand that officials are claiming caused the overdoses.
Manchester Police Sgt. Brian O’Keefe said that Chief David Mara is discussing with city officials the possibility of a spice ban within Manchester.
Matt Simon, New England Political Director of the Marijuana Policy Project, said “It’s very important for people to understand that these drugs are not ‘synthetic marijuana.’ That’s about as accurate as calling methamphetamine ‘synthetic coffee.’ If adults could legally choose to use marijuana, it’s hard to imagine that there would be much demand for these dangerous substitutes.”
“This is just another reason to end marijuana prohibition,” said Simon.
Police in New Hampshire cities including Nashua and Manchester are checking convenience stores and gas stations for the product. A store owner in Pelham was arrested on Friday and charged with two counts of felony drug sales for selling the substance. Three stores in Manchester have been shut down after police said those stores were selling the product.