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Legislature targets synthetic drugs

Drugs
Jan. 31, 2011 @ 06:55 AM

CHARLESTON -- Senate Bill 63 and House Bill 2505 would outlaw the sale, possession and distribution of both synthetic marijuana and synthetic cocaine. Both bills are on track for passage in their respective chambers this week.

The legislative action on designer drugs comes on heels of last year's salvia laws, making it illegal to make or possess the substance, and a citywide ban in Huntington on the sale and possession of synthetic marijuana and synthetic cocaine was enacted last month.

"We may not be able to burst the balloon, but we can at least push on it and deflate it a little to the point where it's less threatening," said Delegate Don Perdue, D-Wayne.

"One of the other delegates relayed an anecdote of someone who had been on one of these drugs, crashed their car and was killed. Anytime you have a drug that can impair you or cause you to do harm to yourself and others, that's not unimportant and not something we should turn our head from," Perdue said. "We can't be numbed to the drug crisis. People's lives are affected and sometimes in a lethal way."

Both bills aim to add synthetic cannabinoids, hallucinogens, stimulants and synthetic cocaine-like substances to the list of Schedule I controlled substances, which would make it a felony to possess or sell any of the drugs. The wording, Perdue said, was left as general as possible to allow for the inclusion of future drugs.

"We've tried to use generic language to cover those situations where a knowledgeable person could change the formulation on new designer drugs. As such, with the wording, that will be covered under the code as well," Perdue said. "This is giving us the opportunity to handle the issue in a meaningful way right now and into the future."

In the Senate, Jenkins was able to add an amendment to its proposed bill that allows the Board of Pharmacy discretion in adding a drug as a Schedule I substance in an emergency capacity. That would get the drug off the street immediately and give the Legislature time to explore the issue further.

"A significant change and enhancement was to provide this tool to the Board of Pharmacy allowing them to act quickly and add new substances," Jenkins said. "They would have to vote on it, it couldn't just be done unilaterally without any criteria. The drug has to have actually or relative potential for abuse."

That would be an upgrade for the Board of Pharmacy, which is only allowed to add a drug in an emergency after the Food and Drug Administration has recommended and approved the changes.

Under existing laws, if the Board of Pharmacy acted to include a substance in an emergency fashion, it would have to publish the decision in the state register and present its decision to the Legislature during its regular session for approval.

"I think the magic of these bills and the changes we've been able to make will be felt down the road when substances we don't even know about today pop up and we won't have to wait weeks, months or maybe years to stop them," Jenkins said.

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