by: Tom Regan Updated:
WOODSTOCK, Ga. - A new ban on the sale of dangerous herbal incense that mimics the effects of marijuana is proving effective.
Both the GBI and local law enforcement officers in metro Atlanta tell Channel 2 Action News anxious store owners are clearing shelves and sending the products back to manufacturers.
"As far as we know, we have had a 100 percent compliance from the businesses. We have had individuals who work for businesses who tried to circumvent the law. In one case the business owner fired that employee," said Phil Price with the Cherokee Multi Agency Narcotics Squad.
In 2010, the Georgia Legislature passed a law banning the sale of synthetic marijuana after a series of investigative reports by Channel 2 Action News.
The drug, which is often sold as potpourri or incense, has triggered dozens of emergency room visits and has been linked to one death.
After the law passed, manufacturers tweaked formulas to skirt the law.
But new legislation which took effect two weeks ago is written in a language that prevents makers of the drug from slightly altering the compounds to remain legal.
"We do believe these manufacturers are working on a chemical formula that won't fall under the law, but the current law covers 90 to 95 percent of these products right now," GBI spokesman John Bankhead said.
The GBI laboratory that tests suspected samples of synthetic pot has seen a decline in the number of products sent in from police agencies.
"It suggests for at least right now, they're trying to get the stuff off their shelves and stop selling it," said GBI Crime Lab Scientist Mary Katherine McClanahan.
Channel 2's Tom Regan spoke with one store owner who said he quit selling herbal incense when it was legal, and has no plans of selling it in the future.
"We don't want to take any kind of risk," store manager Atul Patel said.
Under the new law, conviction for the sale of synthetic pot is a felony that could result in prison time.