A Republican legislator is aiming to ban synthetic marijuana in the next legislative session.
Rep. Gary Bies, R-Sister Bay, plans to introduce a bill banning synthetic marijuana products during the legislative session that starts in January.
“Synthetic marijuana is becoming a real problem drug, and like the real stuff that it mimics, needs to be made illegal,” Bies said in a statement.
Synthetic marijuana, known as Spice or K2 as well as other brand names, is sold as incense in stores and gas stations around the state.
Bies and other officials are targeting the incense, which mimics the effects of marijuana if smoked, as a result of cases where people have ended up hospitalized after smoking the substance.
Synthetic marijuana can cause high blood pressure and hallucinations, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The American Association of Posion Control Centers reported nearly 2,000 calls to poison control centers across the country as a result of synthetic marijuana scares in 2010.
Gary Storck, a spokesperson for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws Madison, said the problem is not synthetic marijuana, but the illegal status of marijuana itself.
“Synthetic marijuana really only exists because of marijuana prohibition, and if marijuana were legalized, K2 would cease to exist as any kind of a product or anything anybody would desire to buy, because the real thing is much safer,” Storck said.
Storck said the potential bill banning synthetic marijuana is “out of line” because it would increase state expenditures.
Bies is not alone in his attempts to purge Wisconsin of legal marijuana substitutes, as local governments around the state have taken up the issue in city council meetings.
Synthetic marijuana has been banned in Milwaukee, Waukesha, Wausau, Eau Claire and Superior.
However, it is available throughout Madison, including stores on State Street.
Currently, Dane County police do not see synthetic marijuana as a serious problem in Madison.
“Eventually if it becomes a problem, much more than it already is, some sort of action would be made,” Sgt. Gordy Disch of the Dane County Narcotics and Gang Task Force told The Badger Herald. “There is no law against it, so we don’t deal with it.”