Synthetic Drug Violations Could Get Real Drug Penalties
December 26, 2013 by IPBS’ Brandon Smith
Indianapolis Republican Senator Jim Merritt has spent the last three legislative sessions trying to find the legal formula that will allow Indiana to crack down on the manufacture and sale of synthetic drugs. Merritt says it’s now time to toughen the penalties.
The legislature’s first two attempts to criminalize the sale of synthetic drugs, often called spice or bath salts, failed because the law banned certain chemical compounds within the drugs, and manufacturers quickly found ways around those bans.
Last session, lawmakers found what they believe is the solution – banning “look-alikes” products that are substantially similar to banned drugs but don’t necessarily contain anything on the state’s list of banned compounds.
Senator Merritt says he wants the legislature to put synthetic drug penalties on par with other drugs such as cocaine and heroin, “Because what is happening is the dealers, the holders, everyone is going more to synthetics because there are lesser penalties.”
Brookville Republican Representative Jud McMillan says the legislature also must ensure it’s addressing the problem of synthetic drugs through treatment programs and community corrections, “I don’t disagree that they should be penalized equally, but I want to make sure that what we’re doing here isn’t just putting penalties on drugs to try and beat the problem that way, because that won’t work.”
McMillan is one of the architects of Indiana’s criminal code overhaul. Part of that overhaul lowers penalties for all low-level, first-time drug offenses in an effort to focus more on rehabilitation and treatment.