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Legislator: Harsher Penalties For Synthetic Drug Sellers

Sen. Jim Merritt wants synthetic drug penalties on par with cocaine and heroin offenses.

Synthetic Marijuana

Photo: Flickr (Jake May)

Synthetic drugs encompass a variety of substances, including "spice" and "bath salts." Some Indiana legislators are proposing harsher penalties for synthetic drug offenses.

Sen. Jim Merritt (R-Indianapolis) says now is the time for Indiana to crack down on the manufacture and sale of synthetic drugs.

The legislature’s first two attempts to criminalize the sale of synthetic drugs, often called spice or bath salts, failed because the law banned certain chemical compounds within the drug, and manufacturers quickly found ways around those bans.

Last session, lawmakers found what they believe is the solution – banning “look-alikes,” anything that’s substantially similar to the banned drugs but doesn’t necessarily contain anything on the state’s list of banned compounds.

Merritt says he wants the legislature to put synthetic drug penalties on par with other drugs such as cocaine and heroin.

“Because what is happening is the dealers, the holders, everyone is going more to synthetics because there are lesser penalties,” Merritt says.

Rep. Jud McMillan (R-Brookville) says the legislature must also ensure it’s addressing the problem of synthetic drugs through treatment programs and community corrections.

“I don’t disagree that they should be penalized equally but I want to make sure that what we’re doing here isn’t just putting penalties on drugs to try and beat the problem that way, because that won’t work,” McMillan says.

McMillan is one of the architects of Indiana’s criminal code overhaul.  Part of that overhaul lowers penalties for all low-level, first-time drug offenses in an effort to focus more on rehabilitation and treatment.

Brandon Smith, IPBS

Brandon Smith, IPBS has previously worked as a reporter and anchor for KBIA Radio in Columbia, MO, and at WSPY Radio in Plano, IL as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.

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