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Synthetic drug laws ramped up nationwide

At one time, Kansas and other states' legislatures tried to keep ahead of the flow of designer drugs by outlawing specific substances. That hasn't worked so well. Manufacturers of synthetic drugs simply shifted the composition of the substances to create new and completely legal variants.

States then started to come up with new strategies to close legal loopholes. The wording of laws was simplified to cover a wider range of substances without listing specific components. Prosecutors began to go after synthetic drug makers for offenses unrelated to drug laws, like nuisance crimes and advertising and agricultural rule violations.

Man-made drugs like synthetic cannabis and amphetamines, scientifically known as cannabinoids and cathinones, were sold widely and legally across the country just a few years ago. The products often were marketed as K2 or Spice incense or White Dove and Purple Wave bath salts "not fit for human consumption." Users who smoked, inhaled or otherweise consumed them experienced highs similar to but often more intense than their natural counterparts.

The potent chemical mixture in faux marijuana is delivered through chemical sprays placed atop a sprinkling of dried herbs. Synthetic amphetamines come in crystal-like forms. Identifiers for synthetic cannabinoids and cathinones consist of a jumble of letters and numbers or multisyllabic names with similar prefixes and suffixes.

Federal and state governments tried to ban synthetic drugs and analogues –unregulated substances with similar chemicals and effects – by adding as many as they could to laws. Some states even gave government agencies permission to modify controlled substance schedules as fast as new synthetic mixtures were detected.

What all these facts indicate is states are more determined than ever to prosecute individuals for synthetic drug offenses. Criminal defense attorneys are adapting legal strategies to protect defendants' rights against this no holds barred approach to designer drug charges. Serious consequences are possible for individuals who possess, distribute or sell synthetic drugs.

Source: National Conference of State Legislatures, "Synthetic Drug Threats," accessed July 31, 2015

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