Four U.S. Senators, Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, have joined forces to reintroduce bipartisan legislation to help fight synthetic drugs. The Synthetic Abuse and Labeling of Toxic Substances (SALTS) Act would make it easier to prosecute the sale and distribution of new synthetic drugs that are “analogues” – or substantially similar to current illegal drugs.

Current law makes it difficult to prosecute new synthetic drugs as analogues because they are often labeled “not intended for human consumption” and not marketed for human consumption despite their well-known use as recreational drugs with dangerous effects. The senators’ proposed legislation would make it easier to prove that synthetic drugs are intended for human consumption and thus easier to prosecute.

“The cynical makers of these drugs often label their products ‘not intended for human consumption’ to evade the law and escape prosecution,” Grassley said. “This bill would help make clear that a label intended to mislead isn’t fooling anybody in the eyes of the law. Those who market poisonous products that harm consumers, including teenagers, ought to be prosecuted for it.”

Current law provides the Drug Enforcement Agency with a mechanism to prosecute the sale and distribution of analogue drugs. However, the law specifically says that an analogue drug does not include any substance “not intended for human consumption.” This makes the prosecution of offenders difficult as synthetic drugs often explicitly state that they are “not intended for human consumption.”

This bill amends the Controlled Substances Act to require consideration of a number of factors when determining whether a controlled substance analogue was intended for human consumption, including the marketing, advertising, and labeling of a substance, and its known use. The bill also says that the existence of evidence that a substance was not marketed, advertised, or labeled for human consumption, should not stop prosecutors from being able to establish, based on all the evidence, that the substance was in fact intended for human consumption.

“Readily available at some local gas stations and corner stores, synthetic drugs have claimed the lives of teenagers in Minnesota and across the country,” Klobuchar said. “In the face of these tragedies, the people that produce these dangerous drugs simply pretend the drugs are not intended for human consumption. This bill would make it easier for law enforcement to crack down on new synthetic drugs the minute they hit the market.”

The man charged with killing two Hattiesburg, Mississilppi, police officers, Marvin Banks’ drug use, including synthetic drugs, and drinking had worsened in recent years; and he was hearing voices in his head. His mother said Banks had been smoking synthetic marijuana, known as spice, every day.

“Synthetic drugs are often more dangerous than the drugs they are designed to imitate, and manufacturers are constantly churning out new versions to evade prosecution,” said Senator Feinstein. “We need to make it easier for law enforcement to pursue the manufacturers and sellers of these drugs, who use false labeling and deceptive marketing to aggressively target young people.”

The law proposed by the four senators is a positive step in the battle against synthetic drugs.