Stores in Effingham County aren’t carrying what’s known as "spice" on the shelves anymore, according to Effingham Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie. And with a new law that went into effect last week, they can’t.
McDuffie, who had been a vocal proponent of having synthetic marijuana, also called "spice" and "K2," outlawed, said his deputies have not seen the substance for sale since an arrest at a local convenience store more than two months ago.
"I’m not going to say we’ve totally eradicated it," McDuffie said. "You don’t ever know about that. It appears to us that we don’t have that problem in Effingham County right now, thank goodness."
McDuffie added that store owners have been cooperative with law enforcement authorities and that they have gotten a good reaction from those store owners.
Gov. Nathan Deal signed Senate Bill 370, called "Chase’s Law," into effect last week. The bill passed the Senate 40-3 in its final vote, and state House members voted a resounding 166-0 in favor of its passage.
"It’s some bad stuff," McDuffie said. "I’m glad they passed it. I’m ecstatic."
McDuffie and other local sheriffs — Bulloch County’s Lynn Anderson, Al St. Lawrence of Chatham County and Clyde Smith
of Bryan County — collaborated and urged local legislators to enact legislation listing "spice" as a controlled substance. McDuffie and his sheriff brethren had a series of incidents where synthetic marijuana was involved.
McDuffie recalled the Bulloch County case where a young woman was beaten badly by her boyfriend, alleged to be under the influence of spice, and a Richmond Hill man is in jail after a series of incidents at an Effingham gas station where he approached women, accosting them for sexual favors. The perpetrator, Anthony Norton, even went so far as to get into the car of a woman, who also had her 11-year-old daughter with her.
"Unfortunately, we did have the evidence," McDuffie said. "But I credit this to the media association we have, we were able to get out there and be more vocal about it. I don’t think we have had but one or two isolated incidents since that time."
The sheriff also said he heard over the weekend that there are some people still using spice.
"But they are not getting it here in Effingham County," he said. "They are having to go out of county to get it."
Upon his reading of the new statute, McDuffie said the law appears to be stringent enough against spice and other synthetic marijuana products. But he’s also worried that another drug will surface to take its place.
"It’s an ongoing adventure that you’re going to have to deal with," he said. "There’s always going to be some drug the kids, and some adults, are going to get involved with. The best thing we can do is to be proactive."
McDuffie also said that store owners who still have spice in their inventory can call the ECSO to pick it up and dispose of it.
"They can turn it in, no questions asked," he said.