Synthetic Drugs

Too Vague to Be Constitutional Two indecipherable criminal laws passed in the 1980s now face scrutiny at the Supreme Court.

The legal philosopher Lon Fuller once invented an earnest monarch named Rex who discovered many wrong ways to make law. First, Rex wrote a detailed code of laws, but, to avoid confusing the public, kept it secret. “To Rex’s surprise this sensible plan was deeply resented by his subjects. They declared it was very unpleasant to have one’s case decided by rules when there was no way of knowing what those rules were,” Fuller wrote. So Rex refined his code even further and made it public. But its detail and precision made it “a masterpiece of obscurity.” Soon “a picket appeared before the royal palace carrying a sign that read, ‘How can anybody follow a rule that nobody can understand?’”

Next week the Supreme Court will look at cases in which two criminal defendants make similar pleas. On Monday, a violent neo-Nazi contends that he is facing 15 years in prison under a law that not only he but some of the most learned judges in the country find incomprehensible; the next day, a dealer in “designer drugs,” claims that he is facing prison under a law so complex that its prohibitions are effectively ecret from anyone except skilled chemists.

The neo-Nazi, Samuel Johnson, faces a 15-year minimum sentence under theArmed Career Criminal Act. ACCA provides that any person convicted in federal court of a firearms offense will receive a minimum 15-year sentence if he or she has previously been convicted three times in state or federal court of “a violent felony or a serious drug offense.” As originally passed in 1984, the Act limited the “violent felonies” to crimes in which force was actually used or threatened, or to any robbery or burglary; two years later, Congress made the law even “tougher.” It now specifies that any offense is a “violent felony” if it “is burglary, arson, or extortion, involves use of explosives, or otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another.”

The last part is called the “residual clause.” With admirable restraint, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote a decade ago that the clause “is, to put it mildly, not a model of clarity.” In fact, it has tied the federal courts in knots. In the past decade, the Supreme Court has had to settle disputes over whether “violent felony” applies to attempted burglary (no), driving under the influence (no), failure to report for incarceration (no), and intentional flight from law enforcement in a motor vehicle (yes). But confusion persists, with different standards prevailing in different appellate-court jurisdictions. For example, in the Fifth Circuit, reckless assault is “violent,” while in the Sixth, reckless homicide is not. In the Fourth Circuit, battery of a police officer is not “violent,” in the Tenth it is. In the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Tenth Circuits, fleeing law enforcement on foot is “violent”; in the Eighth, Ninth, and Eleventh it is not.

As these crazy results piled up, the Court’s cries for help have grown louder. In 2006, Scalia, dissenting in the attempted burglary case, argued that the Act “violates ... the constitutional prohibition against vague criminal laws.” In 2008, Justice Alito wrote that “only Congress can rescue the federal courts from the mire into which ACCA’s draftsmanship” has thrust it. In 2011, Scalia again urged the Court to admit that ACCA “is a drafting failure and declare it void for vagueness.”

Against this backdrop, Johnson v. United States reached the Court last November. As the head of something called the Aryan Liberation Movement, Johnson boasted to FBI informants that he had, and planned to use, napalm, explosives, an AK-47, 1,100 rounds of ammunition, and silencers. He was convicted of being a “felon in possession” of firearms and ammunition; the district court promoted him to career status because of two previous convictions of robbery and one of possession of a short-barrel (“sawed-off”) shotgun. Before the Court, his federal defender argued that mere “possession” of an illegal weapon was not “purposeful, violent, and aggressive” enough to qualify as a “violent felony.” She asked the Court to add short-barrel possession to the list of felonies that aren’t “violent”; if it did so, she said, “this Court need not get into whether [ACCA] is unconstitutionally vague and the baby should go out with the bath water.”

Police: Drug Use Suspected In Two Local Cases Of “Excited Delirium”

BELLMEAD (April 17, 2015) The use of drugs or synthetic drugs is suspected in two local cases of a potentially deadly medical condition called “excited delirium,” one involving a man found lying naked in the middle of a local road and the other involving a woman found rolling around in the grass and making “random irrational statements,” Bellmead police said Friday.

Excited delirium syndrome “is a serious and potentially deadly medical condition involving psychotic behavior, elevated temperature and an extreme fight-or-flight response by the nervous system,” according to an FBI bulletin.

Just after 6 p.m. on April 8, Bellmead officers responded to a report of the naked man, who was lying in the middle of the street in the 1100 block of Hogan Lane, asking for help, police said Friday.

The man threw off a rain jacket with which one officer tried to cover him, saying he was “burning up,” police said.

“He was rolling around in the street nude acting irrational and making irrational statements,” police said Friday, and appeared to have broken an ankle “as a result of jumping out of a window.”

The man, who was not identified, was taken to a local hospital.

Then just after noon on Monday, police received a report about a woman who was acting “out of it” in the 1800 block of Industrial Boulevard.

She “was making random irrational statements and rolling around in the grass. She also had what appeared to be heavy muscle spasms or fast rigid movements,” police said Friday.

She, too, was taken to a local hospital, police said.

“It is believed that both of these incidents demonstrated excited delirium and potentially as a result of drug use or synthetic drug use,” police said.

One study cited in the FBI bulletin says fatality rates of as much as 10 percent have been reported in cases in which the symptoms of the condition weren’t recognized.

“These patients often die within one hour of police involvement,” the bulletin said.

“Without placing themselves or others at a greater risk for physical harm, officers must be able to rapidly detect symptoms of ExDS and immediately engage EMS for proper diagnosis and medical treatment,” the bulletin said.

Police experiencing rash of emergencies due to synthetic drugs

SYRACUSE -- A recent rash of overdose complaints involving synthetic drugs has caught the attention of the Syracuse Police Department and Upstate New York Poison Center.

Officers have reported individuals exhibiting bizarre behavior like foaming at the mouth or boxing with vehicles after allegedly ingesting synthetic drugs. A few examples include synthetic cannabinoids like "Spike" and sythetic phenethylamine like bath salts. Most of the the time people do not know what they are actually ingesting, police said.

The Upstate New York Poison Center has also seen a surge in these emergency situations over the last 72 hours. Patients often exhibited the following symptoms: agitation, paranoia, anxiety, tremors, seizures, high blood pressure, high heart rate, hallucinations, and an inability to speak.

While the police department specified "Spike," the poison center added other brands like "Geeked Up", "Caution" or "Keshia Kole."

Both organizations say citizens should be aware of the recent synthetic drug outbreak. Any person with questions is encouraged to call 1-800-222-1222. 

The Backstory You Really Need To Know About Flakka And Other Synthetic Drugs

The street drug called “flakka” is grabbing headlines as the latest synthetic scourge causing users to spin off in bouts of violence and otherwise insane behavior.  Florida is the setting of multiple flakka episodes, with users allegedly displaying bizarre physical strength and fearlessness. One man in Palm Beach County climbedatop an apartment roof, naked, while waving a gun. Another man in Fort Lauderdale tried kicking down the front door of a police department.

We’ll continue seeing more examples like these, and while there’s no question they are alarming, the truth is they’re relatively small waves radiating from a looming tsunami. The real story isn’t flakka or other uniquely named drugs; it’s the relentless synthetic-drug manufacturing machine that outmaneuvers every law enforcement strategy devised to stop it. And to understand that machine, it’s useful to understand the backstory of its products.

Each new drug bubbling up from the bottomless synthetic cauldron is a chemical variant – a slightly different assembly of molecules that produces similar effects to its predecessors without exactly replicating their composition.  In the case of flakka, the chemical alpha-PVP is a variant of the psychoactive stimulant methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), a mainstay ingredient in the infamous “bath salts” genre of street synthetics.

As I discussed in a previous article on Forbes, MDPV and its cousin, mephedrone, are synthetic variants of an organic class of stimulants called cathinones, found in a plant called khat that is native to the Middle East and East Africa. Khat leaves have been chewed for centuries to deliver a shade of the same jolt synthetic users are seeking in the grains and powders of today’s designer drugs. (Many Americans became acquainted with khat from the 2013 movie Captain Phillips — it’s the plant the Somali pirates are chewing through much of the action.) Synthetic repackaging of cathinone molecules has been the focus of lab experiments since the 1930s.

All of the drugs mentioned above are Schedule 1-labeled substances in the parlance of the U.S. DEA, defined as “drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse…the most dangerous drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence.” Flakka’s key ingredient is one of the latest to make the list.

The Schedule 1 designation includes many other notorious drugs like heroin, meth, and—notably—MDMA, better known as ecstasy. MDMA is itself a chemical variant of stimulants first developed in post-War Japan to boost productivity.

Over the years, synthetic manufactures have changed their chemical recipes to skirt the latest Schedule 1 definitions while delivering more acute effects. In nearly all cases the drugs are designed to breach the blood-brain barrier (the brain’s protective chemical firewall) and tweak neurochemical functions, such as blocking the reuptake of the “excitatory” neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine – which produces a sort of electrically-charged euphoria.  This effect is a toxic amplification of effects inherent to certain psychotherapeutic drugs. The antidepressant drug bupropion, for example, is also a dopamine and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor.

That’s an important point to remember about synthetics that’s usually lost in sensationalized news stories: many of the chemical variants are rooted in drugs initially conceived as psychotherapeutics.  Someone in a lab developed the original drugs to solve a problem. What we see in several street synthetics are chemically tweaked Frankenstein derivatives of drugs that credentialed lab researchers, in some cases quite recently, thought were good ideas.

Unlike regulated psychotherapeutic drugs, however, synthetics are often cut with a scary mix of substances—everything from matchstick phosphorous to athlete’s foot powder—and are not sold with dosing instructions. Snorting, smoking or injecting a full package of bath salts or flakka, or any other synthetic, could be enough for a given user to overdose.

And users can’t rely on the drugs’ manufactures for help with knowing what’s inside the package. The drugs aren’t labeled with ingredients lists, just the disclaimer “Not for human consumption” to avoid detection by law enforcement (though it’s hard to believe anyone would take that disclaimer seriously at this point). Knowing exactly what’s in the powder or crystals is impossible without a lab test.

The efficacy of the original drugs (be they organic or synthetic) is debatable, but the profitability of their derivatives is beyond dispute. These drugs deliver a potent effect that people have sought for a very long time, and the longevity of that market provides enormous incentive for manufacturers to keep churning out variants. And the hard truth is that no matter how many new acronyms are added to the Schedule 1 list, we are well behind the learning curve on how to beat the problem.  According to a recent report on the HBO news show Vice, there are at least 160,000 synthetic drug labs operating in China alone, and those are just the ones we know about. That’s 160,000 or more labs pumping synthetic drugs into the market at a pace we’re only starting to fathom.

Right now it’s flakka; soon it’ll be another quirky named synthetic, and then another. This tsunami started gaining momentum long ago and it’s only getting bigger. Knowing that law enforcement will never have the resources to get ahead of the problem, the best policy is to get the word out (especially to teenagers, the prime market for many of the drugs) that synthetics are unregulated hodgepodges of toxic chemicals and straight-up poison to the brain.

Flakka attack new synthetic drug joins list spanning LSD and Molly

"Flakka," a new designer drug luring some young Americans, is even more potent and more addictive than its synthetic predecessors, which long skirted the law, experts say.

On the street, it's also called "gravel" for its white, crystal chunks. In the lab, it's known as a stimulant, part of a chemical class called cathinones, with the amphetamine-like effects of Molly and Ecstasy. In the media it's been dubbed "the insanity drug."

Indeed, flakka has fueled a recent, bizarre a spate of public behavior, all occurring in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. On April 4, a man who had smoked flakka ran naked in the streets, claiming people had stolen his clothes. In March, a man on flakka impaled himself on a spiked fence outside the police station. He survived. In February, a man on flakka tried to kick in the police station door, claiming cars were chasing him.

"This is bad stuff," said epidemiologist James N. Hall, co-director of the Center for the Study and Prevention of Substance Abuse at Nova Southeastern University in Florida.

"The biggest danger is these are guinea pig drugs and the users are like lab rats."

Flakka simulates the effects of the khat plant, which grows in Somalia and in the Middle East. Experts say that in high doses, it can cause an "excited delirium," during which a user's body temperature can rise to as high as 105 degrees. It can also create heart problems like tachycardia and life-threatening kidney failure.

"Some get high and some get very sick and may become addicted," Hall said. "Some go crazy and even a few die. But they don't know what they are taking or what's going to happen to them."

In 2013 alone, cathinones, created in China and sold over the Internet, caused 123 deaths in Florida, according to the United Way of Broward County Commission on Substance Abuse.

Flakka, which can be crushed and snorted, swallowed or injected, is peddled under many brand names, including the less-potent cathinone,"Molly." Flakka is often mixed with other drugs like methamphetamine.

Ecstasy or MDMA is a different class of chemical altogether, but Molly, though often touted as "pure" MDMA, is a first-generation cathinone. Because flakka is sold under so many different brand names, including "Molly," users can be fooled, not knowing the potency of this new synthetic drug.

Flakka is "very dose specific," said Hall. "Just a little (of it) delivers the high effect. It produces energy to dance and euphoria. But just a little more — and you can't tell by looking at the capsule or baggie."

Its name comes from the Spanish word "flaco" for thin. Latinos also use "la flaca" as a clubbing term for a pretty, skinny girl.

Spelled "flakka," it's "an eloquent collegial term — a beautiful, skinny woman who charms all she meets," said Hall. "They give [synthetic drugs] names that are hip and cool and making it great for sales."

Flakka emerged in South Florida last year, and has been seen in parts of Texas and Ohio, but is still not illegal in many states, according to Hall.

Fears rise over synthetic drugs crisis

The abuse of synthetic drugs is a well-worn story in the United States — the largest consumer market of illicit drugs, according to Dr. Guohua Li, an epidemiologist and founding director of the Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention at Columbia University.

"Each generation is exposed to different drugs of choice," Li said. "The signature substances and their particular effects become a unique feature of the birth cohort."

"Designer drugs must stay ahead of the authorities and medical communities to keep their illegal business afloat," Li added.

In the 1940s, a Swiss chemist synthesized a drug from the ergot fungus and discovered the psychedelic properties of lysergic acid diethylamide or LSD. But in 1966, after Timothy Leary urged a generation to, "turn on, tune in, drop out," the drug was made illegal.

In the 1980s, the all-night rave scene gave birth to the synthetic drug MDMA or ecstasy, giving users the euphoric high of amphetamines and the psychedelic effects of hallucinogens.

By the 1990s, the scourge of lab-produced meth appeared on the West Coast and increased in popularity throughout a decade.

Synthetic marijuana dubbed K2 or Spice, emerged in 2006, and was eventually banned in 2011.

At the same time, MDMA, which is a phenethylamine, saw a resurgence, but by 2010, synthetic cathinones — "bath salts" and the drug Molly — arrived on the club scene.

But now, use of MDMA has tapered off, due to the growing popularity of flakka, which costs only about $5 a dose.

"It's emerging as the crack cocaine of 2015 with its severe effects high addiction rate for a low cost," said Hall. "People are terrified of the drug. It's because the consequences are so devastating."

Flakka: The New Designer Drug You Need To Know About

A man rushes out of his house in Miami last month, ripping his clothes off in a rage, screaming violently, after smoking a crystal-like drug. Five police officers are required to take him down as he exhibits superhuman strength. He is sweating, paranoid, delusional and hallucinating about seeing objects in front of him.

The behavior described above, known as “excited delirium”, is the result of emerging use of a new synthetic amphetamine-like stimulant that is similar to the compound contained in bath salts, also known as cathinones.

The drug is called “Flakka”, and if you are the parent of a teen, it’s important to educate yourself about this new designer drug.

Use of the drug have been reported primarily in Florida, Texas, and Ohio, but the drug is likely making its way into many other cities.

While the synthetic stimulant contained in Flakka, alpha -PVP, was banned and labeled a Schedule 1 drug by the U.S DEA in early 2014, there was not a wide scale dissemination of this information in the lay press. Other more commonly abused bath salts of the cathinone class–such as MDPV–were more widely publicized when a federal ban was instituted in 2011.  According to the DEA, Schedule 1 status signifies those substances with a high potential for abuse, lack of accepted safety for use of the drug under medical supervision, along with no currently accepted use for treatment in the US.

But since underground drug suppliers realize that bans by the DEA are an ongoing practice, they always seem to be one step ahead, making new versions of previously banned drugs. And such will likely be the case with Flakka.

Flakka, which comes in crystalline rock form, can be swallowed, snorted, injected, or used in an e- cigarette and vaped. The duration of the effects of the drug can last as few as 3-4 hours, but can also linger for several days. The drug is highly addictive, both from a physical as well as a psychological perspective.

Because of the ability to place it into a cartridge and vape it, the drug can easily be concealed in public, allowing many to use it without raising any suspicions.

Flakka is produced from a compound known as alpha-PVP, synthetically derived and made from an amphetamine-like derivative of the drug, cathinone.

The khat plant, which grows in parts of the Middle East as well as Somalia, is the source of cathinones. The leaves of the plant are often chewed to achieve euphoria or a high.

While other designer drugs such as molly or ectasy, which contain MDMA, a psychedelic, have grown in popularity over the past decade, Flakka represents a new trend which could lead to greater harm to those seeking altered states of consciousness.

The reason lies behind the mechanism of the drug as a re-uptake inhibitor of dopamine and norepinephrine—important chemicals for nerve transmission—leading to a more prolonged effect, typically referred to as “excited delirium.”

Under normal functioning, the chemicals are taken back up by cells after they are released. But Flakka blocks this mechanism for reuptake, leading to a concentrated and prolonged effect of dopamine and serotonin, known as a state of “excited delirium.”

During this state, body temperature can rapidly elevate to as high as 105-106 degrees Fahrenheit, triggering a cascade of events which could also lead to kidney damage and failure as a result of rhabdomyolysis. Rhabdomyolysis results from the breakdown of muscle and can release a chemical called CPK, or creatine phosphokinase, which can damage the kidneys.

The physiologic effects of Flakka trigger severe anxiety, paranoia, and delusions, leading to a psychotic state, characterized by a surge of violence associated increased strength and loss of awareness of reality and surroundings.

One of the chief concerns of Flakka is that the suppliers–typically from China, Pakistan and India– as well as users often do not know what is actually contained in the drug when it is sold on the streets. Transactions by lower level suppliers are often made online, then reaching the streets where is it repackaged in capsules or made available for vaping. Lacking purity, it may be combined or cut with anything from heroin to cocaine, or even sprinkled with cannabis.

According to the U.S Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Flakka cases are significantly increasing from no reported cases in 2010 to 85 cases in 2012, and now greater than 670 in 2014. No statistics are available on reported cases in 2015 thus far.

The Fort Lauderdale Police Department, according to a report in the Sun-Sentinel, is creating a specialized task force loosely known as the “Flakka Initiative” to work with local agencies as well as the DEA, the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, about the increasing use of the drug.

In addition, the Sun-Sentinel reports that the Palm Beach County Substance Abuse Awareness Coalition is launching a special website next month that warns people not to be guinea pigs when it comes to these dangerous drugs. The website, dontbeaguineapig.com, will be an educational portal about the potential effects of using such designer drugs.

Dangerous New Illegal Drug "Flakka" Sweeping Florida

A new synthetic drug with the street name "flakka," which causes hallucinations, paranoia and violent outbursts, has taken off in Florida, where authorities are seeing a spike in criminal activity and bizarre behavior linked to the drug, reports say.

Flakka's recent casualties include a gunman yelling naked from a rooftop in Palm Beach County and a man in Fort Lauderdale impaled on a police station fence he was attempting to scale, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reports.

Both men told authorities they were high on flakka and hallucinating at the time of the incidents.

A successor to so-called designer drugs such as crystal meth and ecstasy, which are manufactured in illegal laboratories, flakka produces a surge of euphoria and acute sensory alertness by flooding the brain with a chemical called dopamine, experts say. 

It can be smoked, inhaled, injected or laced into other drugs such as marijuana, and at $5 a hit it is considered cheap and easy to acquire in bulk from labs overseas.

The side effects and after-effects are potentially deadly, Jim Hall, an epidemiologist at the Center for Applied Research on Substance Use and Health Disparities at Nova Southeastern University in Broward County, Florida, told CBS News.

"We're starting to see a rash of cases of a syndrome referred to as excited delirium," said Hall. "This is where the body goes into hyperthermia, generally a temperature of 105 degrees. The individual becomes psychotic, they often rip off their clothes and run out into the street violently and have an adrenaline-like strength, and police are called and it takes four or five officers to restrain them. Then, once they are restrained, if they don't receive immediate medical attention, they can die."

Hall also dubbed flakka "a guinea pig drug" because, unlike the manufacturer, neither the user nor the down-the-line dealer knows for certain that flakka is what's being consumed — or, if it is flakka, what is the potency of the dose.

But flakka — also called "gravel" because it comes in tiny, rocklike pieces — is clearly circulating in ever greater amounts, even as episodes involving the much more infamous club drug ecstasy, or "molly," are starting to decline, say authorities.

Florida crime labs went from zero flakka cases in 2010 to 85 in 2012 and to more than 670 in 2014, the Sun Sentinel reports, citing Drug Enforcement Administration figures.

Flakka comes from the same strain of lab-made chemical that was cooked into "bath salts," a once-trendy designer drug that was banned by the federal government in 2012.

The synthetic stimulants in flakka and bath salts, known as cathinones, imitate a natural stimulant found in the chewable, buzz-inducing leaves of khat plants that grow in Africa and the Middle East.

Like crystal meth, flakka is also highly addictive. 

"On a scale of one to 10, Flakka is a 12," Lt. Dan Zsido of the Pinellas County, Fla., Sheriff's Office told CBS affiliate WTSP-Ch. 10 News in St. Petersburg. 

State to consider bills targeting synthetic drugs

Since 15-year-old Montana Brown’s death on Dec. 14, 2013, Frisco father Eric Brown has dedicated his life to spreading awareness about 25I-NBOMe, the synthetic hallucinogen responsible for his son’s death. And finally, it seems like the Texas Legislature is listening.

After hearing tearful testimony from Brown in Austin on March 10, the state Senate Committee on Criminal Justice put its stamp of approval on several pieces of legislation, including Senate Bill (SB) 172, a bill that would make it a felony to possess, manufacture or distribute NBOMe compounds. It will now be considered by the full Senate.

“My son did receive justice through the federal system, but imagine my shock and horror when I learned in January that there were no laws in Texas covering this [drug],” Brown said. “If you’re having to play catch up to the U.S. government, you’re in a world of hurt. Texas should be leading, not following the rest of the herd on this. I hope what is accomplished here will set a precedent for the rest of our nation and, hopefully, for our federal government.”

Marketed as a synthetic version of LSD or acid, NBOMe has had deadly consequences across the state, with the Dec. 20 death of Plano teen Evan Johnson being a recent reminder of the danger of the designer drug.

“Hopefully the fear of a felony punishment will prevent other teens from buying these synthetic substances,” said Leslie Cherryholmes, Johnson’s mother. “Dying from using the drug is significantly worse than a felony conviction. Perhaps a few felony convictions would discourage essentially good kids from trying this drug.”

Although NBOMe compounds are banned by the Department of State Health Services through its schedule of controlled substances, prosecutors are only able to pursue misdemeanor charges.

Authored by state Sen. Joan Huffman, SB 172 would add 25I-NBOMe and its chemical cousins to the Texas Controlled Substances Act Penalty Group 1-A, which carries felony punishment.

“It’s really an epidemic that’s affecting the young people of our state with deadly consequences,” Huffman told the committee. “Teens and young people everywhere are overdosing and, in the worst cases, dying from ingesting this non-punishable drug.”

Early last year, the Department of Public Safety crime laboratory reported more than 54 cases where NBOMe was identified. Under current law, none of these cases could be effectively prosecuted.

“The code we’ve been trying to crack is how to have a bill that would last through these people that are trying to trick the system,” Huffman said.

Sen. Juan Hinojosa agreed, and said that since chemicals are constantly changing in the producers’ attempts to skirt the law, it’s important to come up with effective language to deal with these compounds on a broader basis.

“I want to make it clear that this is not just an urban issue,” said Sen. Charles Perry. “This has been going on in Amarillo, Lubbock, Abilene … I’m committed to do whatever it takes to bring this to conclusion at a level where it’s unprofitable, unpopular and costly both of criminal and penalty nature going forward because this has become a plight. In my area, it’s a real problem.”

The committee also supported SB 173, a bill authored by Huffman that targets synthetic marijuana, popularly known as K2 or Spice. While a 2011 law prohibited certain forms of these drugs, the new bill seeks to ban any compound that includes the banned substances among its ingredients.

If the Senate votes in favor of the bills, they will go to the House of Representatives for consideration.

“In many states that do a line item of these types of substances, it’s like a game of Whac-A-Mole,” Brown said. “Our Legislature only meets every two years, and things can pop up. … We need emergency scheduling powers in Texas. Right now we have to wait 31 days once the feds make a substance a Schedule I … until we can adopt that in Texas, and that process doesn’t automatically happen at 31 days.”

Brown said that the federal government classified NBOMe as a Schedule I drug 29 days before Montana’s death, and that it took more than 120 days to get it scheduled in Texas.

“It’s not that we want our Legislature to meet every year, but we’ve got to have something to deal with synthetic drugs,” he said. “Something’s got to change.”

After hearing about the drug-related deaths of Montana and Johnson, state Sen. Van Taylor has authored SB 1582, or Montana’s Law, to change the culture in Texas.

“My heart goes out to the Brown and Johnson families,” Taylor said. “I have worked very closely with Montana’s parents on this bill, and it’s our belief that Montana’s Law will send a clear message to criminals who design and manufacture synthetic drugs that they will no longer find safe harbor in Texas from outdated state laws to classify and schedule dangerous drugs.”

Taylor said Montana’s Law, filed March 12, will take away the legal loophole that synthetic drug producers currently exploit in Texas and will give law enforcement the authority to arrest and charge individuals who manufacture or distribute illegal drugs.

Synthetic drug designers have been able to effectively skirt the law by creating variations of drugs the state has declared illegal. This problem is magnified in Texas, where the Legislature only meets for 180 days in odd-numbered years. Taylor said the Legislature has made several attempts to update state law to make all new drugs created during the previous two years illegal.

“Montana’s Law would allow the Texas Department of State Health Services to temporarily classify a dangerous drug as illegal, subject to the approval of the governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general, once the Food and Drug Administration has declared it illegal and other criteria are met,” he said. “Once session reconvenes, the Legislature would have to vote to make the change permanent.”

Unlike Huffman’s bills, which focus on specific classes of chemicals, Taylor’s bill would cover “everything,” Brown said.

“The way Huffman has written her bill, some chemist might find a way to skirt the law,” he said. “Taylor says if it acts on those brain receptors or it acts like a Schedule I class drug, then it is a Schedule I class drug and prosecutable.

“Huffman’s is a narrower net contemplating everything we know based on what might come in the future. Taylor’s is the whole net, in case we miss anything. … So if something appears that we’ve never contemplated as a Legislature and it’s acting as a Schedule I, we will have the power to schedule and criminalize it so it’s off the streets and not killing kids.”

Australia to plead for UN help in dealing with the drug ice

AUSTRALIA will plead for action on the drug ice at a global conference this week.

Assistant Minister for Health Fiona Nash will urge this week's United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs conference in Vienna to come up with strategies to stop the trade, distribution and manufacture of synthetic drugs including methamphetamine.

Ms Nash said ice and other psychoactive substances are becoming a major issue for health authorities and police.

"When I talk to people around Australia, and regional people in particular, I hear terrible stories about the effect ice has had on the lives of users, their families and friends," she said.

"Ice carries a casual name but is a deadly drug - it devastates lives and families.

"This is an issue which has touched so many Australians and I'm determined to do all I can to tackle issues of drug abuse and stamp out use of drugs such as ice."

- APN NEWSDESK

Indiana attorney general's office appeals synthetic drugs ruling

NDIANAPOLIS The Indiana Attorney General's Office is appealing two rulings striking down part of the state's ban on synthetic drugs.

In similar decisions in two cases on Jan. 27, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled a portion of Indiana's synthetic drug ban was unconstitutional because its definition of which substances are illegal is too hard to find in some cases.

The statute bans more than 80 chemical compounds and their lookalikes, plus any substance declared a synthetic drug by the Indiana Pharmacy Board. The Court of Appeals struck down the Pharmacy Board portion of the prohibition. The Attorney General's Office appeals those ruling to the Indiana Supreme Court late last week.

“The statute is designed to be flexible and allow the Board of Pharmacy to update the banned synthetics list because the man-made nature of these drugs allows manufacturers to come up with endless new versions of these deadly products,” Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said.

“The result is continued access to these drugs, which creates in young people the tragic misconception that synthetics sold at the retail level are safer than the traditional drugs they are designed to mimic. We cannot afford to take a step backward and allow more youth to get their hands on these poisons.”

Legislation currently pending in the Indiana House would clarify where banned drugs can be found online and in state code.



AG Zoeller urges Supreme Court to reinstate Indiana’s synthetic drug ban

INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller is urging the Indiana Supreme Court to overturn two Indiana Court of Appeals’ decisions that recently struck down a portion of the state’s ban on synthetic drugs.

In similar decisions in two cases on Jan. 27, 2015, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled a portion of Indiana’s synthetic drug ban was unconstitutional because its definition of what substances are illegal is too hard to find in some circumstances. The statute bans a list of more than 80 chemical compounds in addition to their look-alikes, as well as any substance declared a synthetic drug by the Board of Pharmacy. It is the latter set of drugs that are the subject of these appeals. The State filed its appeals of these rulings on Feb. 26.

“The statute is designed to be flexible and allow the Board of Pharmacy to update the banned synthetics list because the man-made nature of these drugs allows manufacturers to come up with endless new versions of these deadly products,” Zoeller said. “The result is continued access to these drugs, which creates in young people the tragic misconception that synthetics sold at the retail level are safer than the traditional drugs they are designed to mimic. We cannot afford to take a step backward and allow more youth to get their hands on these poisons.”

The use of synthetic drugs has increased dramatically in recent years, with the first reports of synthetic drugs appearing in the U.S. around 2009. Poison control centers across the country received 2,668 calls about exposures to synthetic drugs in 2013 and 3,677 exposures in 2014. According to a 2014 Indiana University study, nearly 14 percent of high school seniors in Indiana say they have tried synthetic marijuana. Synthetic drugs come in many different forms and when ingested, the substances cause serious and harmful effects that can be deadly.

State Sen. Jim Merritt (R-Indianapolis) is the author of Indiana’s original synthetic drug ban, which first became law in 2012. In response to the recent Court of Appeals’ rulings, he has authored new legislation in the current session in attempt to make the law more clear should the rulings remain in place. Senate Bill 93 would explicitly state where in the Indiana Administrative Code and on the Internet the public can find the Pharmacy Board’s orders banning additional synthetic drugs.

“Thankfully, Indiana has some of the strongest laws in the country regarding dealing and possessing synthetic drugs, but these laws, and our safety, have been jeopardized by this ruling,” Merritt said. “As an attempt to clarify our state’s current law against synthetic drugs, I authored Senate Bill 93. As long as synthetic drugs are prominent in our communities, Hoosier lives are at risk.”

SB 93 recently passed the Indiana Senate and now moves to the Indiana House of Representatives for further consideration.
Zoeller works with local and state partners to enforce Indiana’s synthetic drug laws, and has supported efforts to crack down on synthetic drug use at the state and national levels.

Recently, he joined with 42 other state attorneys general in urging oil companies to collaborate with their franchises to help eliminate synthetic drugs from retail locations that operate under their brand names, including gas stations and convenience stores.
Despite synthetic drug bans in all 50 states, in 2014, enforcement agencies confirmed more than 130 instances of branded gas stations having sold synthetic drugs.

A copy of the letter can be found here: http://bit.ly/16SlYfD. More information about Zoeller’s synthetic drug efforts can be found here: in.gov/attorneygeneral/2974.htm.

The Court of Appeals decision is not yet in effect, and would not take effect until after the Indiana Supreme Court rules. Although the Court of Appeals ruling did not declare the entire synthetic drug statute unconstitutional, it believed that the list of the newest synthetic drugs banned by the Indiana Board of Pharmacy should be easier to find. The Board already makes the list easily accessible on its website and in legal publications like the Indiana Register and Indiana Administrative Code.

When offenders appeal their convictions and sentences, the Attorney General’s Office represents the prosecution in the appeal, and also defends state statutes from legal challenges. The AG’s Office on Thursday filed nearly identical appeals of the Court of Appeals’ rulings in two cases: Christopher Tiplick v. State and Aadil Ashfaque v. State. The AG’s Office asks the Indiana Supreme Court – the state’s highest court – to reverse the Court of Appeals’ rulings invalidating part of the law and reinstate the entirety of the synthetic drugs statute. Here is an excerpt from the State’s brief in the Tiplick case:

“Due process is not offended by the notion that citizens must look at a few statutes and a handful of administrative rules, all of which are easily accessible to the public, in order to determine the legality of a desired course of conduct. The Court of Appeals’ contrary conclusion has far-reaching implications given the broad array of areas in which criminal and administrative law intersect . . . . Indiana’s system simply mimics decades old federal law addressing the problem that the legislative branch could not act quickly enough to keep pace with the constantly changing chemical structures of ‘designer drugs.’”

Now that the State has filed its appeal, defense lawyers for the two defendants will have the opportunity to file a response. The Supreme Court will decide at a later date whether to “grant transfer” and take the case for further review, and whether to schedule oral arguments. The two appeals can take place even as the Legislature considers possible changes to the statute. 

Gainesville votes to move toward synthetic drug ban

GAINESVILLE, Fla. —Gainesville wants to rid the city of synthetic drugs like "spice" and bath salts after dozens of people were hospitalized last year after ingesting the substances.

The Gainesville City Commission has approved an ordinance that would prohibit the possession of the drugs with intent to sell and bar the displays advertising their sale and manufacture. A second vote is required for its passage.

The Gainesville Sun reports that more than 30 people were hospitalized in Gainesville with problems such as seizures and vomiting after they smoked spice, which is synthetic marijuana.

Under the ordinance, violators would face a fine and a possible lien on their property.

Gainesville police say the ordinance empowers the city to go after drugs based on their packaging, not just their chemical makeup.

Dubai Customs takes part in conference on Synthetic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances

Dubai Customs through its Customs Intelligence Department took part in the regional conference on New Synthetic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances that recently concluded in Abu Dhabi. The two-day conference was organized by the Ministry of Interior (MoI) in collaboration with United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in the GCC states.

Undersecretary of the Ministry of Interior Lieutenant-General Saif Abdullah Al Sha'far opened the conference in the presence of an elite of experts, academics and anti-drug specialists from GCC, Arab countries and UNODC.

Dubai Customs delegates to the conference comprised Mohammed Musabeh Dhahi, senior manager, RILO Office at Customs Intelligence Department; Badr Amine Al Harmoudi, manager, Special Task Section; and Madiha Ismail, Special Task inspection officer.

Dhahi presented a paper on the various techniques and efforts adopted by Dubai Customs in countering the new generation of synthetic drugs and psychotropic substances.

Dubai Customs’ participation also highlighted DC’s operational reference model for processing drug-related transactions using a risk assessment engine to make sure such narcotics do not find their way into the country, which might put the community’s safety and health at stake.

The death penalty: Indonesia way down the list of enforcers

If Indonesia executes Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, as it says it will, it will put that country among the most prolific killer-states where charges related to drugs are concerned.

The execution of six people last month made 2015 the most deadly for drug offenders in Indonesia since 2008, when 10 people were killed. In fact, there had been only one year since then, 2013, that executions had taken place at all.

If, as expected, 11 people are to stand before the next firing squad, it will bring this year's count to 17 – the largest count in the post-Suharto era. And the year is still young.

But Indonesia is not the only place in the world where the state will kill you for using, selling or moving drugs. Historically, it doesn't even rank in the top echelon.

In its 2012 report into the death penalty for drug offences, the most recent report available, Harm Reduction International (HRI) classified Indonesia as a "low application" state – one that applied its death penalty provisions for drugs only rarely.

Indeed, when that report was written, it had been four years since a single person had suffered the death penalty in Indonesia for any offence, according to the Death Penalty Worldwide database kept by Cornell University.

Over that period, China is estimated to have executed at least 17,000 people, according to the database. It's not known how many of those were killed for drug-related offences, but according to HRI, the conviction rate for such offences that carry the death penalty is nearly 100 per cent.

The table below shows executions for all offences by country in 2014 and 2015. The most commonly-used source for these figures is Amnesty International, but their most recent figures apply to 2013. These are sourced from the Death Penalty Worldwide database, which has compiled estimates for last year.

In all, 33 countries around the world will give a death sentence for drug offences. In 13 of those, the sentence is mandatory for particular offences.

Iran, which is a distant second to China in the ranks of countries that actively apply the death penalty, does so in large part for drug-related offences. According to HRI, more than 80 per cent of the 676 deaths by capital punishment in Iran in 2011 were for drug offences.

In that year, a new offence introduced the death penalty for trafficking or possessing more than 30 grams of "specified synthetic, non-medical psychotropic drugs, and for recruiting or hiring people to commit any of the crimes under the law, or organising, running, financially supporting, or investing in such activities", according to HRI.

Iran also has a mandatory death penalty for "heads of the gangs or networks", but the statute does not define what a gang or network is.

Mandatory death sentences for drug-related offences exist in Singapore and Malaysia, both of which neighbour Indonesia. Between 2009 and 2011, at least 290 people received death sentences in Malaysia, at least 196 of them for drug offences. In 2011, two people were actually executed, one for drugs.

Over the same period, according to the US state department, Indonesia's population of drug users grew by about 14 per cent between 2009 and 2011 to 4.1 million people. The problem has persisted.

The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) in 2013 said Indonesia was home to one of the world's largest markets for amphetamine-type substances, such as ice. It said the country housed 1.2 million "problem drug users", and 90 per cent of these were users of amphetamines.

Brookings Institute senior fellow Vanda Felbab-Brown that year called Indonesia a "hot and rapidly expanding meth production center", and noted that it "is no longer just a transit country for illicit drugs heading to Australia, China, and Japan, but is also increasingly a destination country", where an increasing number of the cooks were native Indonesians rather than foreigners.

"The expansion of the synthetic drugs market and the domestication of production have potentially large transformative effects on Indonesia's landscape of organised crime," she wrote.

As journalist Greg Sheridan noted this week, Indonesia's former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono seemed to lose his appetite for executions after the last of the Bali bombers was killed in 2008. Perhaps for that reason, Indonesia didn't feature prominently among the countries that actually kill people for drugs (as opposed to those that sentence people to death who then languish in jail for extended periods).

New President Joko Widodo seems less concerned. 

Push to ban Cloud 9, other synthetic drugs

Batavia, N.Y. - Months after 4 high school students at Batavia High School checked into the hospital after ingesting "Cloud 9" a synthetic drug, Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) is calling for the Drug Enforcement Agency to ban the substance. "The DEA is moving too slowly," he said at Batavia High School on Monday. "The drugs are powerful, they have severe side effects and some of the kids develop permanent mental health problems once they use them." In some instances, Cloud 9 is available at convenience stores. Many synthetic drugs and bath salts were banned as a result of legislation back in 2012, but now manufacturers are tinkering with their formulas to skirt the law. Synthetic drugs are a toxic combination of chemicals made to mimic 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive ingredient of marijuana.  These drugs are often made to seem inviting and harmless - sold under names like "K2," "incense," "spice," etc. - but in actuality they are dangerous chemical concoctions, and this false advertising lures users in. Many experts, however, consider Cloud 9 to be a a dangerous synthetic drug capable of causing seizures, psychotic thoughts and even permanent psychosis. There are reports across the country of hospital visits as a result of the drug. Scott Wilson, the Principal at Batavia High School said that although the drug is still available to purchase, he's making an effort to keep students and parents aware of the dangers. "We've really reached out to try and learn more about it," he said, after Senator Schumer announced plans to speak with the DEA. "We want to be much more preventative, and we've had a panel discussion for parents to get the word out, because it was so new." 13WHAM News has reached out to the DEA to comment on this story, it has not responded to those requests. 

Read More at: http://www.13wham.com/news/features/top-stories/stories/push-ban-cloud-9-other-synthetic-drugs-20171.shtml#.VOPzn9TbiSQ

Powerful new synthetic drugs killing San Diegans

SAN DIEGO — New synthetic drugs that either killed San Diegans or contributed to their deaths have been turning up in toxicology screenings conducted by the county Medical Examiner’s Office over the past year, county officials said Friday.

None of the six substances were seen before in autopsies in the San Diego region and only three had appeared in death cases in the U.S., according to the county.

“The last year has been quite surprising — picking up a rash of unusual drugs, new compounds,” said Dr. Iain McIntyre, the manager of the county’s forensic toxicology laboratory. “There are a lot of novel drug compounds being used in San Diego County and these synthetic drugs have dubious purity.”

Two of the new drugs are stimulants like “bath salts,” which have been common in recent years, while two others are psychedelic hallucinogen compounds — one similar to PCP.

Two more are opioids, similar to heroin. McIntyre said one of those — acetylfentanyl — is his biggest worry because it can be sold in place of heroin and has led to clusters of deaths in other areas of the country.

It was listed as the cause of death for a 24-year-old man in November. The doctor said he suspects the victim purchased the drug locally, but it and other designer drugs are also available online.

“The problem is when you buy these drugs on the Internet, you don’t know exactly what you’re getting, you don’t know if it’s mixed with something that is more toxic than you think you’re taking, and you don’t know the purity of it,” McIntyre said.

“So, the drug you buy today on the Internet might be stronger than the one you bought last month,” he said. “And you get a toxic, fatal reaction to it. The Internet is a game changer with these synthetic, modern abused drugs.”

McIntyre said he suspects local hospital emergency room workers have already seen the substance but may not have known it, because symptoms resemble those appearing in heroin overdoses. The treatment is also similar, but acetylfentanyl requires much more antidote as part of treatment because of its increased potency.

William Perno, a prevention specialist with the Institute for Public Strategies and a retired San Diego County Sheriff’s deputy, said synthetic drug manufacturers frequently alter drug compounds to stay one step ahead of authorities who ban specific synthetic drug formulas.

A manufacturer knows that a product may be out in the market for six months to a year before it’s flagged as a dangerous drug, so they are already working on their next formula, he said.

“This is chemical Russian roulette,” Perno said. “The effects can be death or serious injury after one-time use.”

Local drug dealers can be fooled by their drug sources as well. Perno said one North County man, who was a known ecstasy dealer, actually selling bath salts or methylone, to his own surprise.

Johnson Co. deputy sheriff brings down synthetic drug ring

KANSAS CITY, Kansas – A Johnson County deputy sheriff was the key to bringing down a drug trafficking ring in Olathe that sold more than $16 million worth of designer drugs in just 14 months, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said.

Deputy Christopher Farkes led a three-year investigation that resulted in federal indictments against 13 individuals, including the owners of an Olathe-based business, Tracy Picanso and Roy Ehrett.

In December, Picanso and Ehrett each pleaded guilty to producing and selling misbranded and counterfeit drugs and conspiring to launder the proceeds. They admitted producing and selling dangerous controlled substances and controlled substance analogues of THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) and cocaine-like stimulants.

The products sold under exotic names such as Head Trip, Black Arts, Pump It, Grave Digger and Voodoo Doll. The operation stretched from Kansas to Missouri, California, Texas, Georgia and Colorado, involving more than 15 companies with more than 40 financial accounts at more than 10 financial institutions.

Stop selling synthetic drugs at gas stations, AG Cooper urges oil companies

RALEIGH — Oil companies must help stop dangerous synthetic drugs from being sold at gas stations and convenience stores, Attorney General Roy Cooper urged Tuesday.

Cooper today joined 42 other state attorneys general to send a letter to nine oil companies asking them to work with their franchisees to help eliminate synthetic drugs from retail locations operating under their brand names.

“Despite laws against them these potentially harmful drugs are all too easy to get, especially for young people,” Cooper said. “While law enforcement works to enforce existing laws against synthetic drugs, manufacturers try to evade those laws and sell their drugs at local gas stations and convenience stores.”

Synthetic drugs include both synthetic marijuana, often sold as potpourri, herbal incense, K2, or Spice, and synthetic cathinones, typically sold as bath salts or jewelry cleaner. These substances are labeled “not for human consumption” to evade Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversight but are smoked or ingested by users to get high.

The use of synthetic drugs has increased dramatically over the past four years. In 2010, more than 11,000 people, many of whom were younger than 17, went to the emergency room after using synthetic marijuana, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Since then, thousands more have been harmed by synthetic drugs.

“The fact that synthetic drugs have been available at locations operating under respected brand names has only exacerbated an already growing problem. Young people are the most likely to use these dangerous drugs and their availability in stores operating under well-known brands gives the appearance of safety and legitimacy to very dangerous products. Your companies spend millions of dollars on marketing campaigns designed to convince consumers that your brands are trustworthy. Enforcing strong policies against the sale of synthetic drugs in your retail locations can only protect your brand reputation while also protecting our youth,” the attorney generals wrote in their letter.

The letter sent today to British Petroleum, Chevron Corporation, Citgo Petroleum Corporation, Exxon Mobil Corporation, Marathon Petroleum Corporation, Phillips 66, Shell Oil Company, Sunoco, and Valero Energy Corporation asks the oil companies to take action to prevent their franchisees from selling synthetic drugs.

Specifically, Cooper and the other attorneys general are asking the oil companies to:

· Prohibit franchisees from selling any synthetic drugs;

· Ensure store franchisees and their employees understand the prohibition by communicating directly with each of them;

· Establish a point of contact in corporate offices for franchisees with questions about synthetic drugs;

· Revoke franchisee/franchisor relationship with any gas station or convenience store that sells synthetic drugs; and

· Report to local law enforcement authorities if any franchisee is selling synthetic drugs.

State Senator Introduces Legislation to Ban Synthetic Drugs

Last week, state Sen. Molly Kelly, D-Keene, introduced SB 106, which restricts the sale and possession of synthetic drugs. Following the Senate Commerce Committee public hearing on SB 106, Sen. Kelly released the following comments:

“The health and safety of the people of New Hampshire is a responsibility that we all take seriously and we must act when we are posed with a threat,” said Senator Kelly. “Synthetic drugs pose a serious and immediate danger to public safety, especially to young people, and SB 106 is an important step in eliminating these dangerous products.”

“This legislation is the result of a lot of hard work and has broad, bipartisan support. Last year before the study committee that recommended this legislation, we heard from many citizens about the dangerous effects of these drugs, the devastating consequences to their families and just how easy it was to access these synthetic drugs,” continued Sen. Kelly. “Working with our municipalities, police officers, the NH attorney general’s office, the Department of Safety, the Governor’s Commission on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Prevention, Treatment and Recovery, New Futures, and many other stakeholders, we developed this important piece of legislation.”

Following the public hearing, the Senate Commerce Committee voted unanimously to support SB 106.

“I applaud the Senate Commerce Committee for their swift action on this legislation and I urge the entire Senate to move just as quickly so that we can begin to fight back against the scourge of synthetic drugs and protect the health of the people of New Hampshire.”

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.”