Synthetic drugs are relatively new in the United States and include such products as the highly publicized "bath salts" and synthetic marijuana/cannabis products like "Salvia" and "Spice." Some of these products are technically legal under state or federal law, but are still as dangerous as - if not more so - than the illicit substances they resemble. That is why the federal government is taking steps through legislation to get those products off the streets.
The first major crackdown based on the new federal law led to nearly 100 arrests and the seizure of five million packets of various synthetic drugs.
The Recent Ban
President Obama recently signed a federal ban on bath salts into law. This legislation makes it illegal for one to manufacture, possess or sell several dozen forms of synthetic drugs. Unfortunately, there are more than 100 such products in circulation today, so the new law is definitely not a "cure-all."
Synthetic drugs are available at a variety of small corner stores, head shops and flea markets. They are often labeled as "bath salts" or "incense" to avoid any immediate identification as an illicit substance, but they can be very dangerous. Synthetic drugs mimic the effects of a variety of drugs (everything from meth to marijuana and cocaine to LSD), and have been shown to cause aggression, violence and paranoia in some. Since they are so new, though, their long-term effects are still unknown.
State and Federal Crackdown
State and federal officials are attempting to crack down on businesses that are responsible for distributing the drugs by passing legislation and beefing up enforcement. First-time offenses of buying or possessing these drugs can come with up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1000.
The difficulty with a legislative approach, though, is that the lawmakers simply cannot keep up with the market supply. Once a particular formulation has been outlawed, manufacturers can just make a minor tweak to the chemical composition and skirt any criminal penalties.
When Charged with a Drug Offense
There are many questions surrounding the legality of synthetic drugs, so if you or a loved one has been charged with a drug-related offense, seek the advice of a skilled criminal defense attorney to learn more about your legal rights and options.