Pubdate: Mon, 16 Feb 2015
Source: Dayton Daily News (OH)
Copyright: 2015 Dayton Daily News
Author: Michael D. Pitman


Portman Introduces Bipartisan Measure in Senate.

If a federal law supported by an Ohio legislator is passed, Butler 
County's prosecutor says it may soon be easier to prosecute makers 
and dealers of synthetic drugs.

U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, 
introduced in January the Protecting Our Kids from Dangerous 
Synthetic Drugs Act. The bill - sponsored by nine other senators - 
would provide law enforcement the tools needed prosecute the 
manufacturers and dealers of synthetic drugs.

Portman said the bill allows law enforcement and prosecutors "to stay 
a step ahead of the chemists." By altering the formula slightly, 
chemists can change the drug, and thus preventing the states' 
attorneys general from making it a scheduled drug, which are 
considered dangerous drugs, such as heroin and cocaine.

"Dangerous synthetic drugs are plaguing Ohio communities and this 
bill gives states new tools in the fight against drug abuse," said 
Portman. "By better enabling law enforcement to prosecute individuals 
who illegally produce and distribute these unregulated drugs, our 
bill will help keep dangerous synthetic drugs away from children."

 From January to November 2014, poison centers nationwide responded 
to approximately 3,900 calls related to synthetic drugs. These 
unregulated drugs mimic the effects of controlled substances, such as 
cocaine, ecstasy, marijuana, LSD and PCP. Around 250 synthetics, 
including K2, molly and spice, are packaged to appeal to young people 
and are widely available, including at gas stations and online.

The proposed bill, which has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary 
committee, would establish a committee of scientists headed by the 
Drug Enforcement Administration. That committee would establish and 
maintain a list of synthetic drugs, or controlled substance 
analogues. The committee could also respond "quickly and robustly" to 
any threat.

The bill would also make it illegal to import a synthetic drugs 
"unless the importation is intended for non-human use." And the U.S. 
Sentencing Commission would be directed to review, and possibly, 
amend the federal sentencing guidelines.

"We're trying to make a broader definition here to keep the 
innovative chemists who are hurting our kids and our society by 
promoting these synthetic drugs to have whatever synthetic drug they 
come up with schedule so that we can keep them off the Internet and 
prosecute these cases," Portman said.

That is similar to what Ohio's House Bill 640 would have done. That 
bill was introduced last year by Ohio Reps. Robert Sprague, 
R-Clarksville, and Ryan Smith, RBidwell, in the 130th General 
Assembly. But it did not make it out of the House Health and Aging 
Committee before the General Assembly concluded in December.

While the bill has not been reintroduced in the 131st General 
Assembly, Butler County assistant prosecutor Lina Alkamhawi hopes it 
does - and Sprague's office confirmed the Clinton County Republican 
intends to do so.

And just as Portman said, where chemists evolve and develop new 
synthetic drugs, Alkamhawi said they hope any proposed state law will 
allow the attorney general to issue "an emergency order if it's an 
imminent hazard on the public." That was part of House Bill 640.

Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser called the formula-changing 
"a shell game." He said what's "very disturbing" about that game is 
chemists are attempting to "pervert the justice system." The state 
bill, like the federal bill, would also broaden the rules.

"Drug abuse is symptomatic of a much larger problem that our society 
is facing," said Gmoser. "If you don't have that type of intoxication 
in your life, unfortunately, there's a whole lot new intoxicants 
that's available to you in this society."

Gmoser said the federal legislation would hopefully be adopted, "but 
it's just among the many laws that are being considered - and should 
be adopted - to bring sense to the drug problem that this country 
has" as the underlying basis is in the financial interest in dealers 
and chemists in promoting those drugs.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom