Tougher penalties sought for drug ‘look-a-likes’

Synthetic drugs would become Schedule I controlled substances in Indiana under a proposed Senate bill.

Authored by Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, the intent of Senate Bill 305 is to deter retailers and dealers from selling “look-a-like” drugs that are potentially more dangerous than the drugs they mimic.

“We’re tightening it up, as they say on Twitter, hashtag ‘drugs are drugs,’” Merritt said. “The bottom line is, we’re going to the big leagues rather than just calling them synthetics.”

Under current law, possession of the look-a-like substances carries a much lighter sentence than possessing scheduled drugs, as they are enforced under marijuana laws. Under the new bill, the synthetic look-a-likes would become scheduled drugs in order to differentiate them from marijuana.

Scott County Prosecutor Jason Mount said he believes the distinction was necessary so the public would understand the severity of using and selling the drugs.

“I think leaving these synthetic drugs as what we’re calling them now—tied to marijuana—leaves us with that perception that these drugs are just as safe as marijuana may or may not be,” Mount said. “I really feel like from a public-perception standpoint and a prosecution standpoint, we don’t need to be tying these bath salts to marijuana."

Mount said he thinks the drugs should hold a penalty that matches the severity of the drugs’ side effects.

“They need to be separated out; they need to be treated differently,” Mount said. “If I’m going to take some bath salts that are going to cause the same effect on me like cocaine and methamphetamine, then I think the penalties ought to be commensurate with that.”

The bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee 9-0 and now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

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