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Committee to address synthetic marijuana holds first meeting

A recent spike in overdoses across the state has heightened the urgency of the task before a committee charged with addressing synthetic marijuana, said state Sen. Molly Kelly of Keene, who worked this spring to create the committee, which met for the first time yesterday.

The committee was formed months before Gov. Maggie Hassan declared a state of emergency Aug. 14 following a spike in “serious medical reactions” and hospitalizations related to synthetic cannabinoids.

Kelly drafted the bill to establish the committee in response to concerns that local officials brought to her attention about the substances last year. It passed in May and became effective July 11.

The committee will likely meet weekly until it can come up with a plan to address the issue, Kelly said, probably through legislation, education, outreach to agencies that work in this area or a combination of several approaches.

A general “lack of understanding of what the substance is, and being able to identify and control the substance” makes tackling the problem particularly challenging, she said.

Kelly said the goal of the first meeting was to thoroughly understand the scope of the problem: How is synthetic marijuana made, how is it sold, how is it affecting communities in New Hampshire, and how can communities keep up with changes to the substance’s makeup?

Those present at the first meeting, held in Concord, included Attorney General Joe Foster, Forensic Laboratory Director at the Department of Safety Tim Pifer, New Futures Advocacy Director Tricia Lucas and others, Kelly said.

The public is welcome to attend future meetings, Kelly said, and the next one is scheduled for 2 p.m. Thursday at the State House.

(Casey McDermott can be reached at 369-3306 or cmcdermott@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @caseymcdermott.)

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