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August 14. 2014 9:34PM

Hassan declares State of Emergency over use of 'spice'

CONCORD — As a result of dozens of recent drug overdoses in Manchester and Concord, Gov. Maggie Hassan declared a State of Emergency on Thursday related to the use of synthetic cannabinoid known as “Smacked!”, the same day Manchester police announced the number of overdoses related to the drug has reached 44 since Monday.

The declaration of a State of Emergency triggers the state’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) public health powers under RSA 21-P:53 to investigate, isolate or quarantine and destroy the “Bubblegum Flavor” of “Smacked!”.

Since Monday, Manchester police and city health authorities report 44 people in the Queen City area have experienced serious medical reactions to the synthetic cannabinoid, with at least 20 taken by ambulance to Manchester hospitals for treatment. In addition, the Concord Police Department reported at least three cases in 24 hours.

“These products pose a serious threat to public health, especially to young people, and it is our responsibility to do whatever we can to combat the recent rash of overdoses,” said Hassan in a release. “In consultation with the New Hampshire Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, public health officials in the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General’s office, I have declared a State of Emergency so that we can move quickly to stop the sale of this dangerous substance that has caused an outbreak of serious overdoses.”

While authorities say they are not related to the series of overdoses at this time, samples of at least two other brands of synthetic cannabinoids, “Crazy Monkey” and “Green Giant,” have tested positive for controlled substances. It is illegal to sell or consume these controlled substances under New Hampshire law.

On Wednesday, Manchester officials shut down three convenience stores that allegedly sold the synthetic marijuana “spice” connected to the overdoses.

Han’s Food Mart, 353 Maple St., Union Street Market, 621 Union St. and TN Convenience, 90 Bridge St., sold the brand called “Smacked!”

Commonly referred to as “spice,” synthetic cannabinoids are chemically engineered substances similar to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana.

“It’s very important that individuals be made aware that use of this product poses serious and immediate danger to their personal health,” said DHHS Commissioner Nicholas Toumpas in a release. “We strongly recommend the public avoid any use of this product, and we will work with local police departments as quickly as possible to put the quarantine into effect.”

“As we have seen in recent days in Manchester and Concord, the misuse of products such ‘Smacked!’ can cause significant and adverse health risks,” said Attorney General Joseph Foster in a release. “Therefore, we are strongly recommending that merchants who have similar products remove them from their shelves and destroy their current inventory. Retailers that continue to knowingly sell these dangerous or illegal products are placed on notice that they could be held responsible for harm caused to a user of the product.” Hassan’s declaration will last 21 days, unless terminated earlier or extended by further order.

pfeely@unionleader.com


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