Law Enforcement in Missouri Targets Synthetic Drugs

A few years ago synthetic drugs emerged onto the shelves and counters of gas stations and convenience stores in Missouri and elsewhere across the country, and for a time the creation, distribution and use of the substances flew under the radar of law enforcement. As synthetic drug activity has been incorporated into traditional drug laws, federal and state authorities step up their efforts to police and prosecute those associated with synthetic drugs, particularly sellers.

Synthetic Drug Statistics

Synthetic drugs are chemical substances designed to mimic the effects of traditionally illegal controlled substances, such as marijuana, cocaine, and methamphetamine, while created with chemicals that were not illegal under traditional drug laws. Often synthetic drugs are marketed and sold as “bath salts” or “incense” and are sold under brand names, such as Spice, K2, Cloud 9, and Ivory Wave at convenience stores and head shops. Over the last two years the use of bath salts, synthetic cocaine and methamphetamine, and synthetic marijuana increased dramatically in Missouri and across the country. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, emergency room visits due to synthetic marijuana across the country increased by 6,000 percent over the last year, and calls to poison control centers related to bath salts increased from just over 300 in 2010 to more than 6,000 calls in 2011.

Law Enforcement Efforts to Curb Synthetic Drugs

Recently, federal authorities and state authorities in Missouri and St. Louis participated in a nationwide effort, referred to as “Operation Log Jam,” to root out the sale of synthetic drugs. According to the Post-Dispatch, St. Louis-area law enforcement confiscated almost 70,000 pounds of raw material used to make synthetic substances worth $85,000 and more than 123,000 packets worth nearly $4.6 million. The effort also uncovered two storage sites: one in Overland housing more than $5 million of synthetic drugs and the other in St. Charles, with more than $1.5 million. Investigators said the joint effort uncovered one of the biggest distributors in the Midwest.

Law enforcement officers a part of the effort were enforcing a set of new federal, state and local laws. Many St. Louis-area communities have banned the sale of synthetic drugs and bath salts and synthetic marijuana are illegal under Missouri law. Near the beginning of July, a federal ban on synthetic drugs was signed into law. The federal law bans the sale, production and possession of 26 synthetic substances.

In the past, businesses that sold synthetic drugs attempted to evade the law with labels that identified the products were not for human consumption. The tactic will likely no longer work under the changes in federal law, and the Drug Enforcement Administration has said it will use emergency scheduling to identify and include new chemical forms under the new law.

If you face drug charges in Missouri, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to protect your legal rights.