Synthetic pot and "bath salts" are two designer drugs raising controversy in El Paso, Texas and nationwide. The drugs are given catchy names like Ivory Wave, Purple Wave, Vanilla Sky and Bliss and sold legally in hundreds of different chemical formulations.
Synthetic marijuana is made by spraying chemicals containing THC onto dried plants and smoked by users. It may be marketed as incense or potpourri. Bath salts come in a powdery form and mimics the effects of ecstasy, methamphetamine or cocaine. They may be marketed as plant food and are snorted, smoked, or injected.
The effects of the drugs are not fully known so they cannot be fully outlawed, but the Drug Enforcement Agency has authority to seize the property and to file drug charges. The extent of state and federal authority over the drugs is still a legal grey area.
A 30-state effort was named "Operation Log Jam" and was coordinated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. Federal drug agencies aggressively pursued a crackdown in the last weeks in July and seized the drugs at locations throughout the United States. Officials see the designer drugs as a growing problem, partly because their chemical formulation and effect is not known. Many teenagers are allegedly using the drugs without knowing the dangers because they are not fully outlawed.
The effects on users are dangerous and unpredictable, according to health officials. While the chemical compounds are understudied, the effects are intended to mimic cocaine, LSD, MDMA or methamphetamine. Users have suffered severe side-effects including coma, hallucination and even death.
Though criminal liability remains a grey area, increasing awareness of the drugs and aggressive prosecution could result in severe penalties. Individuals charged with production, distribution or possession need experienced criminal defense, especially as federal agencies begin to crackdown.
Source: The Atlanta-Journal Constitution, "Feds crack down on synthetic pot, bath salts," Andria Simmons, July 26, 2012.