New synthetic drug bill proposed as state throws out old ban

by Megan Trent

INDIANAPOLIS (February 3, 2015) – The Indiana Court of Appeals has thrown out the state’s ban on synthetic drugs like spice and bath salts, concluding that the law as it is currently written is too complicated for the average person to understand, and therefore unconstitutional.

One must navigate long lists of compounds and statutes to find out exactly which substances are illegal to sell or purchase under the synthetic drug ban. In addition, manufacturers are constantly altering the ingredients in banned products to stay ahead of the law.

State Senator Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, says the Indiana Court of Appeals made a mistake.

“Well, they got it wrong first of all, and second of all, I expect the attorney general to appeal this to the Supreme Court,” says Merritt. “For someone to say ignorance of the law is a reason not to follow it, is not a good defense and I think the appeals court missed it on this one.”

Merritt has co-authored Senate Bill 278 with Senator Randall Head. The proposal would increase the penalties for “dealing in a counterfeit substance if the person represents the substance to be cocaine, methamphetamine, LSD or a schedule I or II narcotic drug.” Merritt says he wants to make sure synthetic drugs earn the same punishments as the more traditional street drugs they imitate.

“The drug pushers, the drug dealers, have been going to synthetics because the penalties are less, because they’re not noted as the regular, garden variety drugs like pot and cocaine and LSD,” says Merritt.

He says the new measure, if signed into law, would level the playing field.

“It does level out. If you’re caught with pot or you’re caught with spice, it would be the same penalty. If you’re dealing cocaine or you’re dealing bath salts, you’re going to be punished the same,” he says. “These are poisons that are entering our community and we need to make sure that if you’re dealing it, taking it, if you’re possessing it, you will be held to a standard that’s the same thing as the regular drugs.”

Jeanine Motsay’s 16-year-old son Sam died from a synthetic drug overdose on Mother’s Day. She says it was the first time Sam tried N-BOME, a synthetic hallucinogen. Motsay has now started an organization dedicated to raising awareness about the dangers of these designer drugs. She was surprised that the state ban was tossed out.

“He and his friends were targeted that they were getting something that was like LSD,” says Motsay. “If that’s what is being sold and it turns out to be fatal, which it was in one use for my son, then I think that’s pretty clear. I don’t think there is anything vague about that. It pretty much was poison, and I think the dealers and the distributors should be held accountable for that.”

She fully supports the bill Merritt is proposing and hopes people who sell synthetic products like the one that killed her son will spend a long time behind bars.

“If they’re selling something that they’re marketing as LSD, if it’s 25-I N-BOME, they should have that same penalty that comes from selling or distributing LSD,” says Motsay. “My son didn’t get a second chance, and neither should the dealers or the distributors that are selling these poisons.”