Ohio lawmakers outlawed bath salts and other dangerous synthetic drugs last year, but clever chemists are finding ways to circumvent the law by creating new compounds, said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine at a press conference on Wednesday.
DeWine is urging lawmakers to pass Ohio Substitute House Bill 334, because he said it contains a provision that could stop designer-drug makers from easily skirting the law. DeWine said authorities are currently unable to prosecute some drug cases, because the substances contain chemical compounds that are not subject to the ban.
“We have an evolving threat we must address or fall further behind,” he said. “We need to ban entire classes of these dangerous drugs, not just specifically named compounds.”
Ohio House Bill 64, which became law in October 2011, banned the sale, manufacturing, distribution and possession of bath salts and other synthetic drugs. Lawmakers said the legislation was written in such a way as to prevent synthetic-drug manufacturers from simply “tweaking” their products to get around the ban.
But officials said chemists continue to produce substances that are not prohibited under current law. DeWine said H.B. 334 will change the law to cover the newer chemicals, which are sold at some corner stores, small shops and online.
DeWine also vowed to crack down on the sale, use and distribution of these drugs through civil and criminal measures. He said businesses that sell these drugs may face closure or lawsuits. He said distributors and manufacturers will be prosecuted. He also said law officers will receive training on how to investigate and prosecute these cases.
“We are today warning retailers to stay out of trouble and stay out of this business,” he said.
Until the ban on synthetic drugs took effect, emergency room medical staff were inundated with combative and psychotic patients who were intoxicated on the substances, said Dr. Dennis Mann with Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, who spoke at the press conference.
Patients on bath salts tend to be extremely paranoid and out of control, and medical staff often must sedate the patients so they do not injure themselves or others, Mann said. He said one patient drank his own urine, and this kind of behavior is fairly common.
Cases involving synthetic drugs decreased within weeks of the original ban taking effect.
But Mann said more synthetic drugs continue to enter the market, and often they are even more potent and pose a greater health risk.
“There is a new generation of synthetic drugs on the horizon, and they are far more hallucinogenic and I think they will result in far more psychotic, difficult-to-control behavior,” he said.
H.B. 334 had its second hearing on Wednesday. The third hearing is scheduled for Nov. 28