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Officials say fake drugs now illegal after latest action

Officials say synthetic marijuana became illegal in Letcher County after an ordinance banning synthetic cannabanoids was approved by the Letcher County Fiscal Court.

The court voted unanimously to make substances containing AM cannabanoids, HU cannabanoids, and JWH cannabanoids illegal to sell, manufacture, or possess. After the vote at the Jan. 5 meeting, Letcher County Judge/Executive Jim Ward said Sheriff Danny Webb now has the power he needs to address the sale of synthetic cannabis. Webb said his officers have already begun to take steps to implement the ordinance.

Ward told the court that Warren County in western Kentucky is also working on passing a similar ordinance. He said the issue would also be addressed by the Kentucky General Assembly.

Webb and Sheriff ’s Lt. Brian Damron brought three samples of “brownies” containing the substances to the meeting and said they had been purchased at a Virginia service station by a Letcher County citizen and given to Sheriff Webb. The brownies were in brightly colored packages, and Webb said they had been on display in plain sight. He said the only warnings on the package said it could cause drowsiness and cautioned users against operating heavy equipment.

“They are sold as brownies,” said Webb. “Downy Brownies.”

Letcher County Attorney Jamie Hatton said the county would prosecute offenders. Hatton said the brownies will be sent along with other synthetic cannabis confiscated in Letcher County to the state crime lab and will be cross referenced with other confiscated products. Webb said the manufacturers make minor chemical changes in the synthetics every time one substance is declared illegal. Ward said the synthetic cannabanoids need to be brought under control before someone dies. He added that Letcher County Coroner Marty Baker, who is a supervisor at Whitesburg Appalachian Regional Hospital, said several cases have come into the emergency room where users have been very disoriented with high blood pressure.

The court conducted the first reading of the ordinance at its December 19 meeting. At that time, The Mountain Eagle reported that one business that calls itself TFX and is located in Mayking was selling the synthetic marijuana. Webb said no age limits were in effect at TFX.

In addition to synthetic marijuana, TFX also had signs posted advertising “ bath salts” and “ party caps,” all of which contain herbal stimulants.

Lt. Damron told the court he had saw 13 vehicles arrive at the business one evening with passengers or drivers going to the window of the former drive-in restaurant and ringing a bell for service. Damron said the last person he had arrested for driving under the influence of the synthetic cannabis had no bodily control and was admitted to the hospital.

“It’s devastating,” said Damron.

Damron added that he has spoken to Virginia law enforcement personnel who told him they have a big problem with it as well even though it is outlawed on the state level there. He said the ingredients in the brownies were similar to over-thecounter sleep aids but the dosage isn’t specific.

Damron showed the court a video he had taken of a man he had arrested at Fishpond Lake who had taken bath salts, which he said are called “Skittles.” Damron said the bath salts produce a euphoric feeling but can also cause convulsions. He said one 18-yearold man using bath salts had wrecked his car at Fishpond Lake and was shaking all over and couldn’t stand up when officers arrived.

The Rowan County Fiscal Court and the McCracken County Fiscal Court have also passed ordinances prohibiting synthetic cannabanoids. The Laurel County Fiscal Court conducted the first reading of a similar ordinance at its December meeting. The City of Oak Grove in Christian County also passed an ordinance, but it was challenged in court and a Christian County judge issued an injunction that allows sales to continue. The case for the Oak Grove ordinance will he heard this month.

“Herbal smoking blends” are also forbidden at Fort Campbell, home of the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division. Fort Campbell stretches across the Kentucky/ Tennessee state line and the Kentucky part is located in Christian County. Synthetic cannabanoids are illegal in Tennessee as well.

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