‘Synthetic’ marijuana definition fought in court

WEST CHESTER — A Montgomery County man is challenging the law banning the sale of synthetic marijuana, saying that it is so vague that a common sense reading would confuse people as to what substances are illegal and what are not.

In a motion to dismiss the criminal charges against him, Amrish Patel of King of Prussia said that a 2011 law banning the sale of “bath salts” and synthetic marijuana was amended to include substances that cover a wide range of properties, some which might not fit the type of drug legislators wanted to criminalize.

The law that became effective in August 2011 includes the term “synthetic cannabinoids” along with other banned substances. But that term, criminal defense attorney Joseph P. Green Jr. of West Chester wrote in Patel’s motion, is “irremediably vague and without content.”

“The version (of the law) enacted is substantially more vague than the version originally proposed,” Green wrote in the motion. “During the legislative process, the term ‘synthetic cannabinoids’ lost all definition and content. In the scientific community, ‘synthetic cannabinoids’ can include many different types of substances, and people of reasonable intelligence have no way of knowing whether any unlisted substance will be considered to be a synthetic cannabinoid.”

The motion said that some products such as over-the-counter pain reliever acetaminophen have similar properties to those listed as synthetic cannabinoids in the legislation.

“The legislature likely could have accomplished its stated objective to prohibit possession of designer marijuana by enacting specific legislation incorporating the available descriptions of the … types of chemical substitutions that alter the original chemical structure of marijuana,” the motion states.

Synthetic marijuana, in products known as “Spice,” “K2” and the products Patel is accused of having for sale at his Sadsbury convenience store – “Bossman” and “Cloud 9” – came to public attention in 2011 after a series of incidents in which users became ill or emotionally unstable.

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