Synthetic Drugs and Federal Laws

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.

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 formulae 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.