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TN police, laws try to keep up with synthetic drug chemists

Brian Haas, The Tennessean • Jun 2, 2011 at 5:25 AM

Law enforcement and legislators remain locked in a battle against synthetic drugs — lab-created substances that mimic the effects of traditional illicit drugs. They are marketed as incense, bath salts or plant food but produce effects similar to cocaine, marijuana or Ecstasy. Last year, legislators banned certain synthetic marijuana products marketed as incense with names such as "K2" or "K3." Dubious chemists answered by creating new products with names such as "White Rabbit" and "Vampire Blood" that contain different ingredients not yet banned by Tennessee law.

It’s a war of inches, where the modification of one molecule can mean the difference between an illegal narcotic and a legal way to get high. But this year, the Tennessee legislature answered with a broader attack, expanding the ban on substances that mimic illicit drugs to a wider array of chemicals. And next year, there is talk of giving police more authority to immediately add new products to the list as they emerge without having to wait a year for the legislature to act.

"The last three years have been wrought with this, trying to figure out what is the best solution for these kinds of drugs," said state Rep. Ryan Williams, R-Cookeville, who sponsored a new law banning a newly discovered form of synthetic marijuana. "Quite frankly, the chemistry is so specific, these people can change the chemistry and get right outside the law. We, as a legislature, have to be more creative than the chemists that are creating the new synthetic drugs."

Read more at The Tennessean.

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