ATLANTA - In late March, Gov. Nathan Deal signed legislation (SB 370) that bans the sale of synthetic marijuana products in the state. The Georgia Association of Convenience stores (GACS) supported the legislation and this week met with the governor and Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) Director Vernon Keenan to discuss developments since the enactment of this legislation.
GACS communicated to its members that synthetic marijuana manufacturers have simply changed the formulation so that technically they were not in violation of Georgia law. Lawyers even issued letters to c-stores stating that "new" product does not violate the law, and law enforcement agency efforts have been hampered by this strategy.
Georgia retailers should expect a "full court press" by the GBI and other law enforcement agencies to address the newer formulas, as well as future changes. The State Pharmacy Board can now, by regulation, reclassify new formulas and they will become subject to seizure as synthetic marijuana. This window of opportunity will be quickly closed.
Retailers who currently have these products on store shelves are strongly urged to cease current sales and dispose of the products, as GACS believes that they will become contraband in the very near future. Moving forward, if retailers have a vendor/supplier who shows up with a new formulation and is armed with a lawyer's letter, know that any gain will be short-lived.
The bottom line is this: Don't sell these products. GACS says that retailers who have leased locations should ensure that those locations are aware of the ramifications of continuing sales of synthetic marijuana. If they have supply agreements with retailers who have such products in their supplied stores, communicate with them as soon as possible. As busts are made, don't be surprised if the store is identified by the brand of gasoline they are selling.
The state and local law enforcement agencies are committed to closing the reformulation loophole regarding these products. Choosing to sell such products while they are technically legal is strongly discouraged. In addition to having such products seized, retailers may be subject to additional penalties, plus potential image issues for both the stores involved and any brands they might be identified with.