Reported use of designer drugs has significantly declined since New Jersey banned them in separate initiatives, numbers released by the state Attorney General’s Office on Thursday show.
Last year, the state banned chemical powders known as “bath salts,” which mirror the effects of heroin. The ban became permanent in December.
Since then, New Jersey poison control centers saw a 66 percent decline in reports within the first eight months of this year compared to the same time span last year, before the ban.
“Before we took action to ban these drugs in New Jersey, they were sold as a so-called ‘legal high’ by shady retailers with no regard for their catastrophic side effects,” Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa said. “Today it is unambiguously clear that, here in New Jersey, synthetic marijuana and ‘bath salts’ are just as illegal as cocaine or heroin. Thankfully, the numbers indicate that our bans on these drugs are working.”
The Attorney General’s Office also saw reports of so-called synthetic marijuana fall by a third since a full ban in March on all variations of chemicals used to treat the herbs and plant matter.
The ban was enacted after those manufacturing the drugs — which marijuana advocates say does not have the same mellow high as cannabis — were circumventing a federal ban on the five most common chemicals used to treat the plant matter by changing their chemical composition slightly.
The most dramatic decline was found by the State Police Office of Forensic Science, which received 83 incidents of synthetic marijuana substances submitted for testing from across the state in March, the first month of the full ban. In July, just 19 cases came through the lab, a 77 percent decline.
Atlantic County had the most reported incidents of synthetic marijuana from 2011 until now, with 21, according to the New Jersey Poison Information and Education System used to track incidents. Ocean County had six reports, with none in Cape May or Cumberland counties.
Bath salts reports were at seven in Ocean County, with two in Atlantic County and one each in Cumberland and Cape May counties. Numbers were not broken down by year for comparisons.
“We gave law enforcement the tools and support they needed to fight the distribution and manufacture of these drugs,” said Eric T. Kanefsky, acting director of the state Division of Consumer Affairs. “As a result of these efforts, anyone pushing these toxic designer drugs now will be prosecuted in the same manner as those selling traditional street drugs.”
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