Indiana Appellate Court Strikes Down State Ban on Synthetic Drugs

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An Indiana appeals court has declared the state’s ban on synthetic drugs, such as “spice” and “bath salts,” unconstitutional.

Up until recently, Indiana legislators had banned more than 80 synthetic compounds that mimic the effects of narcotics, in addition to authorizing the Indiana Board of Pharmacy to add substances to the list on an ongoing basis. But in a 2-1 ruling, the Indiana Court of Appeals declared the law to be “too vague for the average citizen to understand.”

The decision was made after a 23-year-old male was charged in 2012 with 18 counts of dealing a synthetic drug and conspiracy to commit dealing a synthetic drug, both of which are felonies under Indiana law. He filed a motion to dismiss the charges, stating that the definition of a synthetic drug is too vague to understand.

If the Court of Appeals’ ruling is upheld, only the existing banned synthetic compounds will continue to be listed as illegal. Opponents of the ruling fear that this will leave manufacturers free to alter the ingredients in their products, making them legal once again.

Sen. Jim Merritt, who wrote the law, is drafting a new version within the next month for consideration. It will include harsher penalties for those caught selling synthetic drugs. In addition, the state’s Attorney General is seeking to appeal the court’s decision. The ruling will stay or be placed on hold until the Supreme Court can offer its input.