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New Rules Toughen Penalties for Synthetic Drug Use In Maryland

America's so-called "War on Drugs" has, over the past decade, expanded to a new battlefield:  Synthetic drugs.  What are synthetic drugs?  Simply put, they are popular alternatives to traditional street drugs (e.g., marijuana, cocaine) which have only recently been added to the federal Controlled Substances Act.

Until recently, simple possession of or possession with the intent to distribute certain synthetic drugs in Maryland constituted only a federal, not state, offense as the state had no law banning such things as synthetic marijuana or cathinones (aka "bath salts"), substances which contain chemical compounds that reproduce the effects of controlled substances such as cocaine and methamphetamine ("meth").

New Rules Regarding Synthetic Drugs in Maryland

The landscape of drug enforcement in Maryland has changed.  Effective October 1, 2013, Maryland Senate Bill 109 expressly prohibits the use, sale, or possession of certain substances that were previously not only widely available, but legal as well.

However, unlike other laws which legislate specific drugs, Senate Bill 109 doesn't solely target drugs.  The reason for this is simple:  The nature of synthetic drugs permits minor changes in their chemical make-up which results in creating new drugs altogether. This allows drug labs to simply alter the composition of a synthetic drug once it's declared illegal and introduce a new (and legal) substance in its place.

The statute makes it illegal to possess or sell what are called cannabimimetic agents, compounds that mimic the effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) as well as those of other psychoactive compounds in marijuana.  In other words, it's not just certain drugs that are now illegal, it's the active ingredients used to synthesize alternate versions of those drugs.

Synthetic marijuana isn't the only target of this legislation, however.  Research chemicals used in the manufacture of the more popular forms of bath salts are also banned.  Active ingredients such as mephedrone, methedrone, methylenedioxypryvolaerone (MDPV) and others are now classified as illegal.  In passing the new law, Maryland joins approximately 40 other states that have criminalized the active ingredients in synthetic marijuana and bath salts.

What Are The Penalties for Synthetic Drug Use in Maryland?

Obviously, both simple possession of and possession with intent to distribute synthetic drugs can lead to charges under the federal Controlled Substances Act.  Drugs under this act are classified by how hazardous the substance is, whether it has accepted medical treatment application, the drug's potential for abuse and, similarly, the potential for addiction or dependence.  As synthetic drugs are classified under Schedule 1, they are considered the most harmful and the potential legal consequences for violating the law are, therefore, the most punitive.

The new Maryland legislation broadens the scope of law enforcement by making possession (for whatever reason) of any of the prohibited active ingredients a violation of state law, subject to fine, imprisonment, or both.

The issue of synthetic drugs is not an exact science, so to speak.  It's possible, for example, that someone may bring compounds purchased legally in another jurisdiction across state lines only to discover (usually too late) that they are in violation of Maryland law.

There are any number of scenarios that can result in your being charged under the new legislation.  If you or someone you know has been charged in Maryland with possession of synthetic marijuana, bath salts, or any of the active ingredients criminalized under this new law, contact Drew Cochran immediately. Time is of the essence if you want to avoid doing time.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Traci Carneal December 13, 2013 at 10:30 AM
So glad the state is finally clamping down on synthetics! Our family has personal experience with a synthetic addict, and these substances alter the brain in a way that can change personalities -- leading to violence, anger, loss of motivation and even worse, stroke, psychotic episodes, suicidal thoughts and death. Our local convenience store was selling it five months ago. How does the government plan to enforce this ban? How can citizens help? I'd be happy to assist.

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