Synthetic drugs such as bath salts, K2, spice, incense and potpourri have been gaining popularity in recent years. Authorities have responded by cracking down on the production and sale of such substances. On March 23, 2012, Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed H.B. 1175 into law, greatly expanding the number of controlled substances under state law. Local governments have also enacted bans of the sale of synthetic drugs. Some say that the laws do not go far enough, but others are highly critical of the laws.

New Substances Made Illegal

The new law adds 90 substances to the list of prohibited hallucinogenic substances under Schedule I of the Florida Comprehensive Abuse Prevention and Control Act. Schedule I drugs are those that lawmakers believe to be the most dangerous and carry the heaviest penalties for possession and sale.

Many of the items added to the list are those that people use to make synthetic marijuana and other synthetic stimulants. Lawmakers included such a large number of new substances on Schedule I because the chemical compounds of these synthetic drugs can change easily. In the past, minor changes to molecular structure of synthetic drugs had help people who manufacture synthetic drugs ensure that their creations remained legal.

Push for Expansion

City officials around the state have taken steps to go further than the state law in targeting synthetic drugs. Various cities have enacted bans on the sales of bath salts and other synthetic drugs. Proponents of the city bans and the new state law argue that these substances are dangerous and that they should not be available to children in convenience stores. They note that synthetic drugs mimic the effects of illegal drugs such as marijuana and cocaine, so they reason that synthetic drugs should also be illegal.

Criticisms of Bans

However, many are critical of the various city bans on selling synthetic drugs. For example, the ban in the city of Palm Coast imposes a $300-per-day fine on stores who sell packets of synthetic drugs. However, the ban is a blanket prohibition on synthetic drugs, despite the fact that some of the products are made of substances that are still legal. Many allege that city governments would rather try to intimidate stores into not selling the products than incur the cost of having the police raid the store and incur the cost of testing the substances recovered from the store to prove that the synthetic drugs include substances on the list of controlled substances.

Critics also note that the bans are intended to protect children, but those who purchase synthetic drugs are largely in their mid-20s. Those who oppose the bans also say that there is little hard evidence of the danger of the substances, and that the effects of the synthetic drugs have been wildly overstated.

Talk to an Attorney

Florida authorities take drug offenses very seriously, as the increased focus on synthetic drugs demonstrates. They will not hesitate to prosecute such cases to the fullest extent possible. Those who are facing drug charges should speak with a drug crime defense lawyer who can help ensure their rights are protected.

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