A legislator has introduced a bill aimed at closing loopholes in the fight against what are commonly known as synthetic marijuana and “bath salts” and imposing stricter penalties for distributors.
County Attorney Rick Sparks, Frankfort Police Chief Walter Wilhoite and Sheriff Pat Melton were on hand in the Capitol Rotunda Tuesday when Rep. John Tilley, a Democrat from Hopkinsville, introduced the bill that uses a comprehensive “class approach” to identify synthetic drugs.
This keeps the drugs currently on the ban list but makes variations of the drugs illegal as well, Tilley said.
There are state laws that ban specific formulas, but chemists get around the formulas by slightly altering the drugs.
Tillly’s bill would prohibit chemical compounds related to those already banned that are used to make the synthetic drugs, thus closing the loophole.
Sparks spoke about the simulated drug statute he has used while prosecuting the case against five Franklin County employees of businesses who sold the synthetic drugs from local stores Jan. 12. That statue, in effect, bars “look alike” drugs. Those cases are pending in Franklin District Court.
But Sparks says Tilly’s proposed legislation – House Bill 481 – would give his office another option. Tilley said Sparks’ approach with the simulated substance statue was “innovative.”
“This is not a substitute for what we are doing, but it’s a complement to it,” Sparks said.
Sparks noted it’s been clear for months the legislation banning specific chemicals could not keep up with the chemists creating new forms of the drugs.
“This bill allows us to keep up with them,” he said about the expanded classification of the “drugs.”
Under the bill, offenders could be penalized with increased fines and possibly lose their liquor licenses. The bill also increases penalties for selling the drugs near schools.
“These are poisons, they are toxic,” Tilley said. “We’ll treat them as real drugs …”
Before he introduced the bill, Tilley listed harmful and even fatal incidents in Warren, Marshall and Franklin counties.
Melton said the bill could make it easier for local law enforcement to save lives. He said local deputies have seen an increase in resistance from more people getting high on the synthetic drugs.
“It has long-term effects, and it doesn’t discriminate – it affects everybody,” Melton said.