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More States Go After Synthetic Drugs

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #690)

Although new synthetics are coming to market faster than governments can ban them, a number of states have moved in recent weeks to criminalize their possession and distribution. In Florida, Louisiana, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, state governments have enacted bans on synthetic cannabinoids ("fake pot") or synthetic stimulants ("bath salts"), or both. In South Dakota, they took a slightly different path to arrive at the same end.

Fake pot goes under many brand names. Spice is one. (image via
Synthetic cannabinoids are marketed as "incense" under a variety of names, including Spice and K-2. They are currently the subject of a one-year emergency ban by the DEA, which is set to expire at the end of February. "Bath salts" are made from methcathinone analogues, typically mephedrone and MDPV, and produce a high likened to cocaine, methamphetamines, and ecstasy. The DEA lists them as a "drug of concern," but has yet to act against them.  They are sold under names like Bliss, Ivory Wave, and the less mellow-sounding Charley Sheene and Drone.

In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott (R) signed into law House Bill 1039 on May 31. It criminalizes the possession of "bath salts" by making them a Schedule I controlled substance. The new law makes permanent an emergency ban on the drugs that went into effect in January.

In Louisiana, the legislature has passed House Bill 12, which bans both synthetic marijuana and "bath salts." Gov. Bobby Jindal, who in January issued an executive emergency ban on the synthetic stimulants and who made this bill part of his legislative agenda, is expected to sign it shortly. Under the bill, both fake pot and "bath salts" will be classified as Schedule I drugs and their possession or distribution will be punished accordingly. This bill is set to go into effect July 15.

In Minnesota, Gov. Mark Dayton (D) has signed into law HF0057, which criminalizes bath salts, fake pot, and 2-CE, as well as any substances that are "substantially similar" in chemical structure and pharmacological effects to illegal drugs. That law goes into effect Friday. Although all of the substances are placed on Schedule I of the controlled substances list, possession of fake pot is a misdemeanor and sale of fake pot is a gross misdemeanor. Possession or sale of bath salts or 2-CE is a felony.

"Please do not use as SNUFF," a web site that peddles "bath salts" helpfully advises (
In Minnesota, at least, retailers are fighting back. Three of them filed suit in Hennepin County (Minneapolis) District Court Monday charging that the law is too vague and broad and is not backed by scientific proof. They also argue that the law provides no criteria for determining if a substance is "substantially similar" to an illegal drug and that the ban infringes on individuals' right to privacy and pursuit of happiness.

Consumers and retailers won't know "if they're committing a crime or not," said attorney Marc Kurzman, who is representing the stores. "You shouldn’t have to get the answer by being charged and going through criminal trials," he said. 

In Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Corbett (R) last week signed into law Senate Bill 1006, which bans the possession, sale, and use of fake pot, "bath salts," and, for good measure, the psychedelic designer drug 2-CE and salvia divinorum. Possession of the proscribed substances can earn you a year in prison, while sales or possession with intent can get you five years. The law will go into effect in late August, 60 days after it was signed into law.

"If left unchecked, synthetic drugs could have developed into the most dangerous drug crisis since methamphetamine labs found their way into our state,'' Corbett said in a press release announcing his signature. "This ban on synthetic drugs sends a strong message that Pennsylvania will not tolerate the use of these chemicals."

In South Dakota, Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R) back in March signed into law Senate Bill 34, which will go into effect Friday. In deals with the fake pot and "bath salts" "threat" not by criminalizing them, but by making it a crime to use, possess, manufacture, or distribute them -- or any other substance -- to get high. In South Dakota, it is already a crime to have ingested an illegal drug; now, it will be a crime to ingest legal substances if it is for the purpose of intoxication.

In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker (R) last week signed into law Senate Bill 54 criminalizing the sale, manufacture, and possession of synthetic cannabinoids and synthetic stimulants. Possession of synthetic cannabinoids is now punishable by up to six months in jail for a first offense and three years in prison for a second offense, while manufacture or distribution garners up to six years in prison. Possession of synthetic stimulants now garners up to a year in jail for a first offense, while distribution of manufacture earns a number of years in prison, depending on the quantity involved.

"By classifying dangerous synthetic narcotics as illegal in the state of Wisconsin we are giving law enforcement the ability to take these destructive substances off of our streets and out of our neighborhoods," Gov. Walker said in a signing statement.

For a master list of states that have banned or are considering banning or otherwise controlling mephedrone and MDPV ("bath salts"), go here. For a master list of states that have banned or are considering banning or otherwise controlling fake pot, go here.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


kickback (not verified)

If it becomes a crime to ingest legal substances if it is for the purpose of intoxication  in South Dakota,  then it sounds to me like people in South Dakota will have to stop drinking alcohol.

Tue, 06/28/2011 - 10:40pm Permalink
Anonymous1 (not verified)

Speaking of taking destructive things off the streets, Governor Walker, can you sign a bill that would prevent cops from patrolling streets?


That would really curb the destruction.

Tue, 06/28/2011 - 11:50pm Permalink
Gene F (not verified)

Legislatures are  overlooking one fact that starts all of the prohibition laws on a very unsteady base. Can anyone guess what that is? Prohibition of the substances or other drugs has not ever worked. It makes no sense to believe that all will now say: 'Oh, okay no one should consume salvia, meth, cocaine, crack, heroin, weed? That's the law then I will obey and have zero desire to even question the authority of the state!' I guess what I first stated was incorrect, all will comply. Baah.

Wed, 06/29/2011 - 9:37am Permalink
David Hart (not verified)

That was my thought exactly, SD - and, to expand the point, what will happen if the police start getting reports of people consuming alcohol for the purpose of intoxication and don't act on them? Will there be any legal means for a citizen who has been harmed as a result of police inaction against drinkers to take them to court? Or indeed, for someone who is being prosecuted for the ingestion-for-intoxication of a legal substance other than alcohol to challenge it on the grounds of unfair discrimination?

Wed, 06/29/2011 - 12:54pm Permalink

We have to legalize cannabis and Salvia divinorum, because no one complains about them. We have to legalize or keep legal the dangerous drugs, like crack, heroine, alcohol, meth, tobacco, etc., because prohibition augment the consumption, makes the quality lower, and eventually leads the political world to develop an addiction to black and grey money, and this destroyed the roots of democracy transforming it into a mafia totalitarian state. Prohibition is criminal at all levels.

Wed, 06/29/2011 - 1:45pm Permalink
Eileen Britt (not verified)

The meanings of the word free:

1.  able to act at will, not under compulsion or restraints, having personal rightsor liberty, not enslaved or confined.

2.  not subject (to) or restricted (by some regultaion or contraint)

The end of our national anthem ends with the words land of the free and home of the brave.

How can we consider ourselves to be a free people when the government can dictate to us what kind of drugs we can ingest?  If a person cimmits a crime, {burglery, rape, murder, etc.) while under the influence of such drugs, that is when they should be punished.

Tobacco alone kills more people in one year than all illegal drugs combined have killed in the last hundred years.

When will this attack on the American people end?  Not until the majority of Americans understand that that war on drugs is an ablsolute failure, which has been proven over and over and they realize that the war on drugs is not a war on drugs but a war on otherwise law abiding citizens.

The criminal aspect of drugs come from the fact that certain drugs are illegal.  If all drugs were legal, most of the criminal element associated with drugs would disappear.

There are finally two politicians who have enough courage to introduce a bill in congress to right this wrong and every American who believes in a free society needs to contact their respective senators and representatives and tell them that they need to vote in favor of legalizing marijuana.

Thu, 06/30/2011 - 12:20pm Permalink
Rookie (not verified)

Its all about filling the Prisons and Courts, Protecting the jobs of the Politicians at the cost of the working people...

It always has been and it always will be... Change is not coming...

Sat, 07/02/2011 - 11:01am Permalink
Anonymous1 (not verified)

Hey, I'm a believer of the making pot legal. My parents were hippies and for all intensive purposes I suppose I'm a hippie too. But these "designer" or "synthetic" drugs, these are bad, bad news!  I have seen what these things causes people to become violent or have psychotic moments. I have seen people flip out on this stuff. I grew up with pot and around pot heads and I have never seen anyone act like that before. Besides why would you want to smoke something when you have no friggin clue what's in it or what it can do to you? There have been 8 directly linked deaths in Poland from "Spice", Hello?! You ever heard of anyone dying from smoking weed? The government needs  to step in and do something. I think it sucks that a lot of people don't agree with me about making pot legal and the synthetic illegal, but you know what? If pot was legal in the first place you wouldn't have these jackasses in a lab creating stuff that could possibly kill someone.

Fri, 07/08/2011 - 11:35am Permalink
capt real truth (not verified)

The govt is trying to ban spice because its like this!  COP........its friday night where can we bust a pot head?  oh yeah i forgot they buy spice now!  HA! HA!  GOOD LUCK!   yes! they are disapointed, nothing to do but eat doughnuts and dream of those 100 pound busts! I hope they ban everything, i got a friend that sniffs gas, ban it!  i got a friend that gets drunk and beats his wife! ban it! i got a dog that likes to piss on the floor!!!!!!!!!!!!  BAN IT!    get the picture.

Sat, 07/07/2012 - 11:55pm Permalink

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