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California lawmakers ask governor to criminalize possession of synthetic drug 'spice'

Safety officials assist a man on downtown L.A.'s skid row last week. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Safety officials assist a man on downtown L.A.'s skid row last week. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Alarmed that dozens in Los Angeles have been sickened after ingesting a synthetic drug called “spice,” state lawmakers on Wednesday sent the governor a bill outlawing possession of the substance.

The urgency measure requested by the California Narcotics Officers Assn. would make a first offense of possession of specified synthetic cannabinoids or stimulants an infraction. A second or third offense could be a misdemeanor. It is already a crime to sell the drugs.

Sen. Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton) cited the situation on Los Angeles' skid row in which more than 50 people have been hospitalized in the last few weeks, many suspected of using the drug.

“These synthetic drugs are a uniquely dangerous threat to public safety,” Galgiani told her Senate colleagues before a unanimous vote to approve her bill, Senate Bill 139.

The measure’s supporters also included the Assn. for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, the California Police Chiefs Assn. and the Los Angeles Police Protective League.

The measure is opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Drug Policy Alliance.

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