New Legislation on Synthetic Drugs: A Message from ONDCP

As part of the COPS Office’s partnership with the Office of National Drug Control Policy, we are committed to keeping the law enforcement community informed on emerging drug issues such as synthetic marijuana and bath salts. In addition to hosting a panel on the subject at the 2012 COPS Conference held on August 1-2, 2012, we also wished to share this message from ONDCP Director Kerlikowske on some important recent legislation.

synthetic marijuanaOn July 9, 2012, President Obama signed the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act of 2012 into law as part of S. 3187, the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act. This important piece of legislation provides a critical boost to our nation's efforts to address the threat of synthetic drugs. The legislation bans synthetic compounds commonly found in synthetic marijuana (“K2” or “Spice”), synthetic stimulants (“Bath Salts”), and hallucinogens, by placing them under Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. 

Although this Federal ban provides a valuable tool in keeping these dangerous substances off the shelves, we would encourage states that have not already done so to incorporate these substances into their state drug schedules to ensure that state law enforcement agencies have full authority to act against these substances. The Drug Enforcement Administration will continue to work with state and local authorities to investigate major distribution networks, but retail and community-level enforcement will continue to occur largely on a state and local level. 

We expect that this law will have an impact on illicit sales of these newly scheduled synthetic drugs, at least in the short term. However, Federal and state agencies will have to continue to update the list of banned substances as new synthetic compounds emerge. In addition, some states and localities have also experienced success in using additional health, safety, or agricultural authorities to remove these substances from retail shelves. 

Research shows that preventing drug use before it begins is a cost-effective, common-sense approach to promoting safe and healthy communities. In the coming weeks, ONDCP will be unveiling a Synthetic Drug Prevention Toolkit, which we hope will serve as a resource for communities dealing with this issue. 

ONDCP is committed to partnering with our state, local, and community partners in addressing this challenge. As always, we are eager to hear from you on what you are seeing in your community and what is working in your own efforts.

R. Gil Kerlikowske
Office of National Drug Control Policy

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