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Federal agents crack down on 'synthetic' drugs in Wisconsin

When is a drug not a drug? Perhaps before the federal government bans it. Not so long ago, so-called "synthetic drugs" with nicknames such as Spice, K2 and bath salts were being sold out of smoke shops, gas stations and other locations. Although they were designed to mimic the effects of illegal drugs such as marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine and MDMA (aka Ecstasy), they were still legal.

But by the middle of last July, the chemicals in these substances were banned in Wisconsin and other states after numerous overdose deaths were reported. Possession of these synthetics is now just as much of a drug crime as getting caught with their "real" counterparts.

Now the federal government is cracking down even further by seizing the chemicals as they're being shipped from one state to another through the mail. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is conducting the seizures, saying it's the agency's mission to keep the mail safe. The Drug Enforcement Administration has also classified several of the chemicals as controlled substances.

A Minnesota man became caught in a legal tangle after using the drugs excessively. After buying several packages of synthetic drugs from a company in South Carolina and another in Texas, he came dangerously close to overdosing from snorting bath salts for three days. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor drug possession charges earlier this month and was sentenced to a year in jail.

But the man's attorney said that if his client hadn't already been in prison on another charge, he might have fought the charges for the synthetics because they were still legal when he purchased them.

In the time since the Minnesota man was charged, 14 more warrants have been filed by postal inspectors in connection with synthetic-drug shipments. The out-of-state suppliers of the drugs have been lying low as the postal service investigations continue.

The synthetic drug market is at a crossroads, at least in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Even if you purchased these substances before they were banned, there's a chance you'll have to defend yourself in court if you're accused of possessing them. Due to their recent transition from legal to illegal status, finding an experienced drug crimes attorney is crucial to your defense.

Source: Standard-Examiner, "Feds put the squeeze on synthetic drug shipments," Dan Browning, May 8, 2012

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