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  • DC May Get Help From Congress For Synthetic Drug Issues

    With the number of people using synthetic drugs on the rise and efforts by D.C. authorities proving ineffective, Congress may step in to help solve the problem.

    Several members of Congress gathered Friday afternoon to announce a new bill that would change existing law to legally classify any chemical compound that is similar to a controlled substance to be legally treated as if it was the same thing.

    “This bill has a simple purpose: stop the sale of deadly synthetic drugs,” Rep. Charlie Dent told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “In only a few months, counties in my district saw nearly fifty overdoses leading to hospitalizations and, in at least two cases, death.”

    Currently, the federal law, called the Analogue Act, requires the chemical compound of a synthetic drug to be considered “substantially similar” to an existing illegal substance to be considered illegal. According to Dent, it is hard to prove in court that substances are substantially similar because there is no legal definition, so under the new law that standard would be greatly relaxed.

    Dent says there is a “kind of gray area in the law,” and with the proposed change that gray area would disappear.

    Currently, the drugs are often sold legally in convenience stores and head shops in bright, colorful packaging under brand names like Spice or K2. They are labeled “not for human consumption” to avoid regulation by the Food and Drug Administration.

    “Synthetic drugs are being marketed in convenience stores and other markets as a safe, legal alternative to controlled substances,” Rep. Jim Himes said at the Friday press conference. “This is far from the truth. Without any serious regulation or enforcement, the manufacturers of these drugs are exploiting a legal loophole to put untested, potentially dangerous drugs on the street, where the people buying them have no idea what sort of effect they’re going to have.”

    The District of Columbia has been particularly hard hit by the synthetic drug epidemic. So much so that it was forced to institute an emergency law banning the drugs from being sold in the city.

    The law was passed after a recent college graduate on his way to celebrate the Fourth of July with friends was brutally stabbed to death in broad daylight by a man suspected to be high on synthetic drugs.

    The two were on a train headed for downtown D.C. when Jasper Spires tried to steal Kevin Sutherland’s cellphone. The two struggled before Spires punched Sutherland several times in the face and stabbed him nearly 40 times before ultimately darting off the train and into the holiday crowds.

    Spires was found by police the following day after a city-wide manhunt.

    The new law allows district officials to shut down any business — typically liquor stores and gas stations — caught selling the synthetic drugs.

    Eleanor Holmes Norton, the district’s non-voting delegate to Congress, said the city has seen a huge increase in synthetic drug overdoses in recent months.

    “The District of Columbia, like many jurisdictions across the nation, is struggling to fight a synthetic drug crisis that continues to plague our residents,” Norton said.

    Earlier this month, police made the largest synthetic drug bust in the city’s history, confiscating more than 260 pounds of the drugs and arresting two men.

    The drugs were reportedly worth around $2.3 million on the street.

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