NEWBURYPORT — Synthetic cannabis, sold under the brand names Spice or K2, can be purchased at head shops, gas stations and other Massachusetts stores anytime by anyone. It is marketed as herbal incense that can fill the room with a pleasing aroma aimed at soothing the nerves. But when smoked, it produces a hallucination high that mimics marijuana intoxication and has become increasingly popular with Newburyport teens.
Concern over the detrimental effects of these products has sparked not only the city’s Beacon Coalition, Department of Youth Services and Police Department to address the issue, but in recent weeks it has also inspired local parents to do what they can to make sure their peers are aware of the problem.
In March 2011, the federal government banned the sale of five types of synthetic cannabis, including K2, but since local police departments cannot enforce federal laws, it is up to communities to enact their own laws or ordinances banning sales. So far, most states including Illinois, New York and Michigan have banned synthetic marijuana sales, but Massachusetts has not yet joined them.
Still, two cities in the state, Fall River and Lynn, have implemented such an ordinance serving as a blueprint of sorts to other communities looking to do the same. Other communities have asked for a pledge from merchants not to sell K2. In recent weeks, Newburyport’s Department of Youth Services Director Andrea Egmont has been in contact with Fall River officials seeking their advice.
Per Fall River’s ordinance, no person shall sell, offer to sell, gift or publicly display for sale any cannabimimetic product, illegal chemical agent or illegal chemical product that produces a euphoric or intoxicated state. Residents are also banned from possessing or inhaling such products including tobacco, herbs, incense, spice, bath salts, plant food or any blend of those products. The fine for violating the ordinance is $300 for each offense with a separate offense for each sale, offer to sell, gift or public display for sale.