By a 97-0 vote, the Indiana House today passed House Bill 1524 relating to synthetic drugs. It is the second proposal this week dealing with the topic and the second to received approval.
On Tuesday, the state Senate approved a bill that would make it illegal to possess or deal “look-alike” synthetic drugs.
The bill, authored by State Sen. Jim Merritt (R-Indianapolis), increases restrictions on synthetic drugs in Indiana. With a 47-2 vote, the new proposal would make it illegal to possess or deal “look-alike” synthetic drugs, as current state law only prohibits substances identified as synthetic drugs based on their chemical make up.
“Although we’ve allowed room for emergency making rules to identify new synthetic drugs, manufacturers are too quick to develop new and more dangerous substances,” Merritt said. “Our new law would follow an old adage — if it smells like a skunk and looks like a skunk, it’s probably a skunk.”
Accoding to Merritt, SB 536 would also give law enforcement officials and prosecutors new tools to fight the synthetic drug epidemic. His legislation would alter the current definition of “intoxication” under Indiana Code to include impairment by any substance – excluding food and food ingredients, tobacco or a dietary supplement.
Indiana’s current definition for intoxication only includes impairment by certain substances like alcohol and controlled drugs which creates situations where police are unable to arrest a person driving under the influence of a newly created synthetic drug.
Indiana retailers selling synthetic drugs and look-alikes for profits could face stronger penalties as well. Merritt’s bill calls for retail merchants’ certificates to be automatically suspended for one year if they are convicted of selling the dangerous substances.
Additionally, under SB 536, the Deceptive Consumer Sales Act and the drug nuisance statute would be strengthened in order to help the Attorney General’s office bring civil actions against those retailers who continue to sell the substances.
“Senator Jim Merritt’s efforts to expand enforcement opportunities and strengthen state law to more effectively crack down on synthetic drugs are welcomed by stakeholders in law enforcement to ensure loopholes are closed and these dangerous drugs are taken off store shelves,” said Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller.
At least one local business where synthetic drugs are allegedly sold was targeted by police last week. Warsaw Police said they received numerous complaints of illegal and synthetic drug activity stemming from The Underground so they initiated a focused patrol effort for several hours on Thursday. (See related story)
Warsaw Police Narcotics Investigation Taskforce fanned out on the east side of Warsaw, which resulted in 14 criminal arrests including possession of a synthetic drug, possession of drug paraphernalia, driving under the influence of drugs, leaving the scene of a motor vehicle crash, driving while suspended, and battery resulting in bodily injury.
SB 536 now moves to the Indiana House of Representatives for further consideration.