- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 16, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION: 

Oops! Maybe the kids were paying attention in chemistry class.

This not just in: A man convicted of selling synthetic drugs to a store in Charlottesville, Virginia, had his conviction overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, leaving law enforcers in the Commonwealth, the District and elsewhere with having to prove that synthetic-drug defendants knew they were selling an illegal, controlled substance.

Quite a burden, is it not? And an unfortunate conundrum for states and localities chiefly because it’s practically impossible to outlaw the endless combinations of chemicals used in synthetic drugs and because law enforcers can’t possibly keep track of the street names of those synthetic drugs.

K2, Spice, Bizarro, Ivory Wave and No Speed are but a handful of the “brand” name synthetic drugs making nationwide headlines. Some of these drugs are synthetic cannabinoids and synthetic stimulants, and they often are referred to as “bath salts,” potpourri,” “jewelry cleaner” and “herbal incense,” as well as other generic street names.

These drugs, however, are not synthetic marijuana, as you were misled to believe.


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No Speed, for example, was one of the branded synthetic drugs Stephen McFadden was convicted of selling to a Charlottesville store. He was convicted in 2013, the year after Congress passed and President Obama signed the Controlled Substance Analogue Enforcement Act, which both branches of government apparently thought would stem the supply of, if not the demand for, designer drugs.

The Obama administration made it very clear, when the president signed the bill into law, what the ramifications were then, and prophetically read the tea leaves.

The Office of National Drug Control Policy reports: “There is an increasingly expanding array of synthetic drugs available. 51 new synthetic cannabinoids were identified in 2012, compared to just two in 2009. Furthermore, 31 new synthetic cathinones were identified in 2012, compared to only four in 2009. In addition, 76 other synthetic compounds were identified in 2012, bringing the total number of new synthetic substances identified in 2012 to 158.”

The agency also looked into the crystal ball and warned: “The contents and effects of synthetic cannabinoids and cathinones are unpredictable due to a constantly changing variety of chemicals used in manufacturing processes devoid of quality controls and government regulatory oversight.”

Even Bible Belters aren’t fully aware of what’s going on — despite federal laws — to undermine this emerging drug trade. Kentucky law enforcers and medical staff, for example, have their eyes peeled for bath salts, too, because these drugs do not show up on toxicology screens.

That these highly addictive synthetic drugs do not show up on tox tests means addicts on parole or probation can get off practically scot-free on routine urine tests. Users, however, often tell on themselves.

Like LSD, PCP and other “trips,” the chemicals in synthetic drugs cause hallucinations, psychosis, paranoid delusions, and repeated use of such chemical concoctions can lead to overdoes, death, and permanent brain and nerve damage. Self-mutilation and violence common traits as well.

Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier has cited cases where parents have wandered from their young children, adults were wandering in the street and where users were perilously closed to fatal overdoses.

The chief now has the power to shut down businesses found selling these dangerous designer drugs, an effort which might decrease supply, although that is no certainty. Once the “El Campos” of the world smell a drug demand their Job One becomes providing the supply.

Merely closing stores and listing a drug as “controlled” by federal, state and local law does not cut it, obviously. It’s time to go undercover.

Congress and the Obama administration, and local and state governments were so busy trying to decriminalize marijuana they failed the idiot test. As the Office of National Drug Control Policy actually informs, these lab chemists have been devising dozens and dozens of new drugs since Mr. Obama became president.

The labs must be shut down and the online pushers locked down. And that won’t happen unless law enforcers go undercover.

In the meantime, parents, hold your children closely, lest they, too, be fooled into thinking they’re being offered marijuana, which is a legal drug.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

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