Governor signs bill outlawing synthetic pot

All forms of synthetic marijuana are now illegal in Georgia under legislation Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law Tuesday.

Synthetic pot contains marijuana-like chemical compounds combined with different forms of dried vegetation. The products were sold in gas stations and can be smoked by individuals in search of a legal high.

Georgia banned synthetic pot once before, in 2010, but manufacturers tweaked the formula to get around the law. The bill Deal signed Tuesday was designed to close that loophole.

“These synthetic substances pose an enormous risk to our public safety,” said Deal. "As the usage has dramatically increased, instances of violence, bodily harm and even death have risen with it. I applaud the GBI and the General Assembly for their fast work on this legislation, which addresses a pressing need.”

The product is a Schedule I drug under the law and possession and sale is punishable by two to 15 years in prison. Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vernon Keenan said his agency is instructing local law enforcement to inform retailers who sell synthetic marijuana that it is now illegal and to either destroy the products while officers watch or have it seized and face possible prosecution.

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