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Today’s Ceremonial Signing: Synthetic Drug Bills

Synthetic drug sellers and makers now face felony jail time and fines up to $5,000 following a ceremonial legislation signing by Gov. Bill Haslam in front of Tennessee High School’s student body Monday, reports Hank Hayes.
Two bills sponsored by state Reps. Jon Lundberg and Tony Shipley — which address both synthetic marijuana and bath salts similar to controlled substances — are now law. Shipley’s bill took effect Monday, while the effective date of Lundberg’s legislation was April 27.
The law also allows authorities to declare synthetic drug businesses as a public nuisance. Haslam indicated earlier this year he didn’t know that much about synthetic drugs, but then began hearing about student protests outside local head shops.
“I think one of the things that affected our thinking … was this is a big issue,” Haslam told reporters following the legislation signing at Viking Hall. “We had a student death up here, and we heard repeated tales from the emergency rooms here about how many patients they were seeing from bath salts or synthetic drugs. It really was something becoming way too commonplace. This place was the epicenter of it.”
Shipley, R-Kingsport, asked THS students: “How many of you know someone who’s taken bath salts or know where they’ve bought bath salts?”
Many hands went up.
“Ladies and gentlemen, that’s the reason we passed this law. This was an epidemic attacking our community,” Shipley declared.
…Haslam’s administration included more than $300,000 in the recently passed state budget to pay for incarceration expenses in the law. Those expenses were based on more than 60 people going into the Department of Corrections for a controlled substance or imitation controlled substance offense in each of the past 10 years.
The new laws and increased public focus on synthetic drugs, Lundberg said, apparently have scared off synthetic drug sellers. He added synthetic drug cases in local emergency rooms have dropped dramatically.
“I think it’s had an impact that people know it’s illegal. … It hit us the worst,” Lundberg observed
…For more information go to www.capitol.tn.gov. Shipley’s bill was HB 3175. Lundberg’s bill was HB 2286.

Revised Bill Puts Cockfighting Fine at $2,500

Legislation to make cockfighting a felony in Tennessee has been revised to instead declare it a Class A misdemeanor on first offense with a minimum $2,500 fine.
As things stand now, the typical fine for spectators at a cockfight is $50. That provides little deterrent, proponents of the bill say, and in fact makes Tennessee an increasingly popular place to hold events since cockfighting is a felony in most neighboring states.
“It seems to make us a mecca,” said Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, sponsor of SB785.
As originally introduced, Ketron’s bill called for making the crime a felony in Tennessee as well. That led to legislative staff estimating that it would cost the state $618,000 per year to lock up those convicted of a felony. An amendment makes those organizing a cockfight, participating in one or simply being spectators all subject to a $2,500 minimum fine — but no jail time. Those convicted of a second offense, however, would be subject to a felony conviction.
The revision lowers the estimated cost to the state to just $55,000 for housing the projected felony convicts, which supporters hope will improve prospects for passage.

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