Representative Charlie Dent (PA-15) released the following statement regarding hospitalizations and deaths in the 15th District related to the use of “synthetic marijuana.”

“Over the past two weeks, I have been greatly disturbed to read about a new wave of hospitalizations resulting from the use of so-called “synthetic marijuana.” These drugs are sold legally in stores by virtue of the fact that the chemicals are unknown and therefore not explicitly prohibited by law, and their commercial sale all too often gives potential users a false sense of safety.

The fact is that these drugs are not safe. Many times more potent than actual marijuana, they are believed to be responsible for as many as ten deaths from overdose and toxic exposure in our area over just the past few weeks. Our hospitals have been overwhelmed with dozens of users, many of them behaving violently and erratically, posing real safety hazards to hospital workers and other patients.

Since this story broke, I have been in close contact with our area emergency physicians and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). I worked closely with these same partners to enact legislation to help fight synthetic drug proliferation in 2012. This legislation banned 26 synthetic drugs and enhanced DEA’s power to take emergency actions against new and emerging chemicals. While I am told that this law has been helpful to DEA, much work clearly remains to be done.

I would call upon all legitimate business proprietors – including convenience stores, gas stations, and novelty shops – to do the right thing and pull these deadly products from their shelves. These drugs owe their popularity to the access and illusion of safety that comes with commercial retail sale. Store owners have the power and an ethical responsibility to put a stop to the tragic toll on human life that synthetic drugs are taking in the Lehigh Valley and beyond.”

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NOTE:  Representative Dent introduced H.R.1254, the Synthetic Drug Control Act of 2011, during the 112th Congress. Dent’s bill passed the House. Similar language was incorporated into a Senate Bill, S.3187, the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act, which was signed into law (Public Law No: 112-144).

CONTACT: Shawn Millan (610) 770-3490