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The following is a guest blog post by Maggie Marquez-Jaynes, King Law Offices, Greenville SC. The views expressed are the opinions of the author and do not reflect those of the Law Office of Shahin Zamir.
Over the last five years, there has been an explosion of new synthetic drugs in the marketplace that provide consumers with a ‘legal’ high without the need of back alley deals to buy marijuana, cocaine or methamphetamines. Even recently, these man-made drugs could be purchased at local gas stations, smoke shops or convenience stores with trendy names attached, such as K2, Spice or ‘bath salts’. While these products state they are not intended for human consumption, the marketing clearly alludes to them being smoked or ingested to mimic a high the original, and illegal, drug would have delivered.
A synthetic drug is a material chemically laced with substances to provide a high consistent with marijuana, cocaine or methamphetamines. For instance, synthetic marijuana consists of plant material sprayed with a combination of chemical compounds that mimics the Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which occurs naturally in marijuana. Additionally, ‘bath salts’ contain man-made varying chemical signatures of methylenedioxpyrovalerone (MDPV), mephedrone, and merthylone. Because they were new and designer drugs, the statutes did not cover them.
It has become a constant race between the legislators, whose efforts are to curb these drugs as they are created, and the creators themselves, whose efforts are to create currently-legal drugs. Often, the newly created synthetic drugs have all of the ill-side effects of the long-illegal drugs; however, the statutes cannot be written in such a way to cover any drug that might be created yet still pass constitutional scrutiny.
The most recent laws passed at the federal level prohibit the sale of these synthetic drugs online, as some states have not been as active in the continual ban of newer substances as other. Therefore, up until the most recent legislation, at least the purchase of these substances was often legal by purchasing them over the internet or by phone order. The federal law seeks to curb such interstate transactions.
Regardless of the continual efforts by either side, the legislators continue to play “catch-up” with the laws, as the formulas are often tweaked just enough to deliver the high the user would seek, while moving the substance from an illegal category to a legal one. Only when that new substance becomes pervasive, and the legislators can introduce the law, can that new substance be banned as illegal. Of course, the cycle just continues to repeat.
The federal law, however, banning these illegal substances, cuts off one avenue of acquiring these synthetic substances by making it much harder to purchase substances that are illegal in one’s own state yet legal in another. The logic being that cutting off another legal avenue of acquiring drugs would continue to frustrate this pervasive problem, hopefully breaking the “will” to continue the consumption of the product, rendering the need to find a “way” unnecessary.