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Synthetic Drug Ban Enforcement

In April of this year, Governor Bullock signed into law a ban on synthetic drugs, sometimes sold as bath salts or incense. The law focused on chemicals that mimic the effects of illegal drugs of abuse. They are popular with users because the chemicals, although related to illegal drugs, are different enough that they do not trigger a positive result on a drug test.

A recent nationwide sweep by law enforcement shows the extent of the problem. With 35 states involved. The DEA used a federal version of the ban, along with local law enforcement personnel to crack down in states where these products are still being sold.

The focus of the latest operation, dubbed “Project Synergy,” was a version of the synthetic drugs that is sprayed on dried vegetable matter and then sold as incense. Users know they can smoke it like marijuana. The products are marketed to younger people, with flashy aluminum foil bag-style containers and names like: Spice, WTF, and Scooby Snax.

Retailers who sell these items may be mistaken about their legal standing, but because of rising media attention, this is becoming less and less likely. In a typical operation, an undercover officer will purchase the synthetic (often kept hidden behind the counter) from a retail establishment and then a warrant will result. Business owners caught with these items face fines, jail and even forfeiture of assets.

The danger from these products comes partly because the dangers aren’t known. The compounds are not tested on human subjects and, to avoid the letter of the law, are often switched to another substance – even in the same product. This means that users never know what they are getting, nor what the effects will be. And some mixtures have already resulted in deaths.

In Montana, it will take constant attention and strong enforcement to get these products permanently out of circulation.


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