State, Indy to crack down on synthetic drug sales

By Zach Osowski
TheStatehouseFile.com

INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller and Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry announced Wednesday they are teaming up to get “bath salts” and other illegal, synthetic drugs off store shelves.

Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry appeared Wednesday with Sen. Jim Merritt (left), R-Indianapolis, and Attorney General Greg Zoeller to announce a crack down on businesses that sell synthetic drugs, despite state laws that aim to make the drugs illegal. Photo by Zach Osowski, TheStatehouseFile.com.

Curry said police are aware of “at least a dozen” convenience stores and gas stations that have been knowingly selling packets of K2 spice, bath salts and other synthetic drugs for human consumption. But he said authorities have been unable to act because the drugs seized have not yet been determined to be illegal, even though their compounds are simply small variations of illegal drugs.

“This is an increasing problem,” Curry said at a joint press conference on Wednesday. “The pharmacies that make these drugs are always one step ahead of the legislature.”

Under the new initiative, any retailer selling drugs under common names such as spice, bath salts, plant food and incense – whether the compounds are illegal or not – will be prosecuted. Curry said that’s possible under laws that prohibit dealing substances represented to be illegal drugs or dealing in look-a-like substances.

Zoeller said the attorney general’s office will be seeking civil charges against offending retailers as well.

“We are going to aggressively pursue legal remedies if stores are caught selling these drugs,” Zoeller said.

Under a new state law, those businesses face losing their commercial retailer licenses for one year.

The city and state launched the initiative Wednesday with police officers delivering letters from Curry to retailers detailing exactly what will now be banned. Curry said he’ll give retailers a seven-day window to get rid of any drugs now on the shelves before criminal charges could be filed.

Retailers statewide will also be asked to sign a pledge saying that they will not sell synthetic drugs.

Sen. James Merritt, R-Indianapolis, author of the synthetic drug law passed this year, appeared at the press conference as well. He was adamant that the crackdown is necessary to help people impacted by synthetic drugs.

“These are the scourge of our time,” Merritt said. “Today’s efforts by Attorney General Zoeller and prosecutor Curry serve as proof that Indiana will not turn a blind eye towards to those who try to skirt synthetic drug laws.”

The new law aimed to make it easier for police to keep up with changing formulas used to create synthetic drugs. It allowed the state’s Board of Pharmacy to set new definitions for illegal drugs but the compounds have still been changing too fast for the state to keep up.

Zach Osowski is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

Correction: The caption in the above photo has been corrected from its earlier version. Pictured at right is Attorney General Greg Zoeller. Due to an editor’s error, the original caption incorrectly identified him. TheStatehouseFile.com regrets the error.
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