Bath Salts: New Frontier for Drug Enforcement Officers

Widespread media attention has put a spotlight on the newest trend in drug use: synthetic compounds commonly referred to as bath salts. Drug enforcement officials have been making efforts to combat the use and distribution of these drugs, but many have encountered obstacles in doing so.

One of the main issues faced by state and local law enforcement is the ever-changing nature of the drugs. The designer drugs are made in a lab and their properties can be easily changed to skirt existing regulations. Furthermore, months may pass before the Drug Enforcement Administration is able to get one of these newly made synthetic compounds categorized as a controlled substance.

Because bath salt manufacturers are able to alter the chemical makeup of the drug so quickly, they are able to avoid new penalties. For example, over 60 new chemical compounds have been recognized by the DEA during the past two years, but only three of them have been labeled a controlled substance.

Many believe the compounds are developed first in other countries, such as China, India and Pakistan. The compounds are then imported to the United States, where they are combined to form the designer drugs. The drugs have been found for sale in gas stations and on the Internet, sometimes sold under the names "plant food" and "incense."

It is important to note that there is a loophole in the law governing controlled substances that allows the designer drugs to be handled in court as if they were controlled substances if prosecutors can demonstrate that the compound was intended to be used or sold as a drug. Typically, prosecutors can prove their case with circumstantial evidence.

Drug crime convictions can carry serious and long-lasting consequences. If you have been accused of a bath salt-related drug offense, consulting an experienced criminal defense attorney is the first step in establishing an effective defense.

Source: WFSU, "Synthetic 'Bath Salts' An Evolving Problem For DEA," July 2, 2012.

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