By: Jack Thorndike
When the synthetic substances first appeared, the DEA was quick and correct in responding with their two (2) Emergency Schedules: Synthetic Cannabinoids (K2 or Spice): www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/fed_regs/rules/2011/fr0301.htm
Synthetic Stimulants (Bath Salts): Google “DEA Bath Salts” and click on the first result: “News from DEA, News Releases, 10/21/11”
Under the Federal regulations, all of the precursors and analogs are automatically covered in their two
(2) schedules. This is not the case with the individual state CSA’s. Many states reacted quickly and with good intentions by duplicating the Federal emergency schedule and the chemistry formulas listed. However, synthetics offer us the new problems of “tweaking” those formulas very slightly and creating new substance formulas. Individual states either had to change to wide encompassing language to include all precursors and analogs or become very specific in which formulations they will add to their CSA’s.
Some examples of the wide encompassing language: Indiana: The legislative body passed an amendment that would make all synthetic substances illegal. It was worded in such a way that the State
had the right to add any new chemical formulations that the DEA were to deem dangerous and add to their emergency schedule and all analog and precursors for synthetic substances. To read through the amendment, go to the following link and scroll down to the controlled substance section:
Wisconsin: Wisconsin passed their amendment early in 2011. This amendment was effective in closing
the loop holes on the new synthetic substances of “K2” and “Bath Salts” as well as the older synthetic substance of MDMA (Ecstasy). What has happened in the past, chemists have changed the formula for MDMA very slightly adding or reducing the amount of hallucinogenic or euphoric substance and making a new synthetic substance.
These new substances (referred to as letter drugs) take the new letter designations of MDEA, MDA,
BDB, MBDB, DXM, etc. When law enforcement agencies checked with their prosecuting attorneys, these new “letter drugs” are not listed under the CSA, and are therefore, legal. Some of the wide encompassing language Wisconsin used is as follows:
“. . . including any of their salts, isomers, precursors, analogs, esters, ethers, and salts of isomers, esters, or ethers that are theoretically possible within the specific chemical designation, in any form contained in a plant, obtained from a plant, or chemically synthesized.”₁
To read the specific language and a more full description of the Wisconsin amendment, go to:
This is a mere sample of the wording of statutes that two (2) states have enacted.
Many of the states across the country have enacted similar amendments to make charging of these synthetic substances more simplified. However, this also opens another important discussion. Are all analogs of these substances harmful and if so, how can you determine the new chemical
formulas are harmful?
Both Arizona and Nevada have asked those questions which have led to more conservative legislation. In the case of “bath Salts”, Arizona has recognized seven (7) specific formulations and Nevada six (6) specific formulations (including the original three of MDPV, Methylone and Mephedrone). In each
case, these specific formulations have been deemed “harmful”. In both of these states, if the subsequent analog substance cannot be determined to be harmful, it has not been added to
their CSA. Please check with your prosecutors to determine the breadth of your analog legislation.
What does that mean about the effectiveness of the new field tests for synthetic stimulants?
Any state that has a limited synthetic stimulant law (similar to either Arizona or Nevada) be very careful about laying charges with the field test only. These two field tests are designed to identify the original substances of MDPV/Methylone (NAR10024 or NARK20024) or Mephedrone (#NAR10025 or
#NARK20025) and ALL analogs of these substances. In those states, you may still want to use the field tests to confirm your believe you have a synthetic stimulant, but always proceed to the crime lab for your report prior to laying charges.
What possible benefit would there be in field testing in these more limited states if we cannot charge the individual and bind through preliminary? Remember, even though you are dealing with a state crime lab, for that lab to touch your sample, process and write a report, you are looking at between $125.00 and $150.00. Your agency may not have to pay that bill, but with the chemist’s time, lab time, lab chemicals, etc, the charges are significant for every exhibit you send. In addition, many states have extensive delays on waiting for their substances to be tested and lab reports returned. If you field test a
substance and the results are positive, at least you now know the substance is one of the original formulas or an analog. At this point, allow the crime lab to determine if the substance is chargeable
or an analog not covered under your CSA. Under the Federal regulations, all of the precursors and analogs are automatically covered in their two (2) schedules.®
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