Proposal would strengthen Oklahoma's synthetic drug laws

An Oklahoma lawmaker plans to introduce legislation next month to help prosecutors win convictions against those caught selling synthetic drugs to the public.
by Andrew Knittle Modified: January 7, 2014 at 6:25 pm •  Published: January 8, 2014
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An Oklahoma lawmaker plans to introduce legislation next month to help prosecutors win convictions against those caught selling synthetic drugs to the public.

State Rep. John Bennett, of Sallisaw, said he is planning to introduce the bill after witnessing firsthand the number of Arkansas residents who flow into eastern Oklahoma solely to buy synthetic drugs.

These substances include synthetic marijuana — marketed as “spice” or other names — and bath salts, which apparently mimic methamphetamines.

“Although Oklahoma has implemented bans on specific formulas of synthetic marijuana and bath salts, drugmakers can easily sidestep these regulations,” Bennett said.

“Manufacturers adapt simply by replacing the chemical compound of a banned synthetic cannabinoid or cathinone with a newer formulation that is not yet known to authorities.”

In a news release, Bennett said the proposed legislation would “expand current bans on specific synthetic drugs to cover a range of drugs that traffickers have and will continue to dream up.”

The bill will be virtually identical to the one now in effect in Arkansas, he said in the release.

Law enforcement officials have described the struggle to prosecute those selling synthetic drugs as a “game of cat chasing mouse.”

For prosecutors, winning convictions against those caught selling the potentially dangerous substances has been a challenge.

Early last year in Cleveland County, a case against a Norman couple accused of selling synthetic marijuana out of their gift shop near the city's historic downtown area was dismissed after a chemist working for the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation could not confirm that substances seized by Norman police contained illegal compounds.

A mother and her son, who were also arrested and charged with selling synthetic drugs in Cleveland County within the past 18 months, had a criminal case against them dismissed for the same reason.

The problem

Mistie Burris, who supervises OSBI's forensic chemistry lab in Edmond, told The Oklahoman in July that the reason the cases were dismissed in Cleveland County was due to the fact that a sample from a “reputable manufacturer” had not been obtained at the time.


by Andrew Knittle
Investigative Reporter
Andrew Knittle has covered state water issues, tribal concerns and major criminal proceedings during his career as an Oklahoma journalist. He has won reporting awards from the state's Associated Press bureau and prides himself on finding a real...
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