Police: Synthetic Drugs 'Next Big Thing'
Police say the country is behind on legislating synthetic drugs.
Members of law enforcement say synthetic drugs that mimic the effects of illegal drugs are being used by kids and teens.
Many of these drugs are not illegal, Captain Duane Williams, commander the Harford County Sheriff's Office Special Investigation Division and Harford County Taskforce, told members of the Citizen's Police Academy last month.
Sgt. Chris Parrish, who works in the same division as Williams, said prescription drugs and designer synthetic drugs are what seem to be the "next big thing" in the 2000s.
"The kids are using it a lot," Williams said of synthetic drugs, adding he does not believe it has reached the level of illegal use of prescription pills in Harford County.
In Howard County, two recent incidents involving synthetic marijuana garnered attention. One incident involved a teen who was taken to the emergency room vomiting every 10 minutes for two hours after smoking synthetic marijuana in a school bathroom, according to a story on Columbia Patch.
"People have died from it," Williams said of Spice and other synthetics, "So I've got some serious probems with it."
Williams said Spice, K2 is one of the few synthetics that are illegal. Spice is a synthetic drug which, when smoked or ingested, mimics the effects of marijuana, according to WebMD. It is made by soaking or spraying plant materials with various chemicals, according to WebMD.
In February of 2011, the Drug Enforcement Agency, or DEA, made it illegal for one year to possess and sell five of the chemicals used to make Spice and other synthetic marijuana products. In February of this year the ban was extended for another six months, according to the Huffington Post.
"We are way behind the power curve with making these illegal," Williams said of synthetic drugs.
One major problem with legislating these substances is that manufacturers can make slight alterations to skirt the law. Williams said laws are written to include chemical composition of a substance, not just a name.
Changing one part of the chemical make up of the substance means that the existing law no longer applies to that substance.
"There's no easy answer to it," Williams said.
Another challenge is Maryland State Police labs are not equipped to test for some of these substances, so samples must be sent to the Drug Enforcement Administration, or DEA, for testing, Williams said.
Williams said it's not likely prosecutors will move a case of simple possession to that level, however a dealer or distributor of illegal synthetic drugs could be prosecuted at the federal level.
Williams said the laws surrounding these substances need to be tailored further.