The House Judiciary Committee heard testimony on companion bills in the House and Senate Wednesday that would tighten restrictions on the sale and distribution of synthetic marijuana.

The drugs, often referred to as Spice, are marketed under nicknames such as “El Diablo,” “Zombie Killer” and “Twilight Zone.”

“Unfortunately many people think these drugs are safe to use, including parents, because it is so readily available,” said Edra Morledge, a staff member with Sen. Kevin Meyer (R-Anchorage). “They are actually not safe; they cause many psychopathic effects on users of the synthetic drugs.”

Meyer’s version of the bill is ready for a full vote on the Senate floor. It is similar to legislation sponsored by fellow Anchorage Republican Rep. Charisse Millett, meant to target the drugs despite their widely varied components and packaging.

"It’s an ever changing group of names and that's what we struggle with,” Millett said. “It's an ever-changing group of drugs that are mixed in with these Spice bills."

In 2011, the Legislature banned the chemical ingredients used to make this contraband, but manufacturers got around it by using chemicals not covered under the law. Legislators are now trying to close that loophole.
"These two bills are an attempt to stop the sale of these illicit synthetic drugs by targeting the way that they are packaged, rather than the chemical compounds,” Morledge said.

Investigators say Spice is often marketed as potpourri or incense, making it easier to ship overseas into Alaska cities and villages. Members of the committee say they want to make sure the legislation doesn’t unintentionally ban other products that are marketed legally.