What are Synthetic Drugs?

October 16, 2012

Recently, 26 synthetic drugs, such as Spice, K2, and bath salts, were added to the federal Controlled Substances Act. Synthetic drugs are popular alternatives to traditional street drugs, such as marijuana or cocaine, and were previously legal.

As discussed in a previous blog post, Controlled Dangerous Substances are drugs that are regulated under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and are divided into five “schedules.” These schedules are classified by how hazardous the substance is, whether it is used in accepted medical treatments, the potential for abuse, and the likelihood for addiction or dependence. The federal government passed legislation making synthetic drugs Schedule I.

There are two common types of synthetic drugs:

  • Cannabinoids, which are chemically engineered as a substitution for the effects received from tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana; and
  • Cathinones, which are chemically engineered as a substitution for the effects received from amphetamines, such as cocaine or ecstasy. The street name is bath salts.

Bath salts, have been linked in the media to several crimes in the DC region. Bath salts also made national news when Rudy Eugene attacked a homeless man in Florida and proceeded to chew on the homeless man’s face. However, toxicology results on Eugene showed he had only non-synthetic marijuana in his system.

In 2009 and 2010, many states enacted legislation targeting specific versions of the synthetic drugs. However, the nature of these drugs means that minor changes to the chemical make-up can create new drugs altogether. These chemical changes were not covered under the previously enacted laws, but were addressed in 2011 and 2012 legislation. The new regulations target entire classes of substances in order to prevent new formulas of these drugs from going unregulated.

In 2012, Maryland enacted House Bill 589, which added the chemical compounds of bath salts such as MDPV, Mephedrone, and Methedrone to the Schedule I list. The state currently has no law against synthetic marijuana, but the drug is federally banned. That means, despite the fact there is no law in Maryland, you can still be charged.

Under the legislation that was enacted by Congress in July 2012, possession of a Schedule I Controlled Substance can result in:

  • up to four years in prison; and/or
  • a $25,000 fine.

Distribution or possession with the intent to distribute can result in:

  • up to 20 years in prison; and/or
  • a $25,000 fine.

If you have been charged with possession or distribution of a synthetic drug in Maryland, be sure to contact an attorney with Cochran and Chhabra at 888-268-5515.

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