'Look-alike' synthetic drugs lead legislators to re-examine new laws

Stateline Midwest ~ July/August 2013

At a recent Minnesota House hearing on the proliferation of synthetic drugs, the head of the state’s Pharmacy Board called it a “Whack-A-Mole problem.” “Every time you stomp something down,” Cody Wiberg said, “something else pops up.”

According to the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune, lawmakers are spending part of this year’s interim session trying to find a solution to the growing public health problem. And one idea is to pass legislation similar in intent to a new law in Indiana. That measure (SB 536, passed earlier this year) bans the possession and use of “look-alike” synthetic drugs — drugs that have had their chemical ingredients manipulated, but that still lead to intoxication and potential health problems.

In 2011, one in nine high school seniors reported using synthetic marijuana, a rate of usage that is higher than that of all illicit drugs except marijuana, according to survey sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Legislatures across the country have since passed laws banning synthetic drugs, which are made to imitate the effects of illicit drugs. These new state laws ban certain chemicals, but that has led to the creation of newly formulated, and legal, “look-alike” substances.