Gov. Steve Beshear on Tuesday emergency regulations to place newly identified synthetic marijuana under Schedule 1 of the Kentucky Controlled Substances Act. The action represents the first time synthetic substances have been banned by administrative regulation instead of by statute, a change allowed by the passage of House Bill 481 in the 2012 session.
“This measure lets us keep pace with backyard chemists who try to skirt the law by manipulating the formulas of dangerous substances,” Beshear said. “And it gives us the tools to respond to threats as soon as they are identified.”
Sponsored by Rep. John Tilley, of Hopkinsville, the law broadened the scope of banned substances to include entire classes of synthetic drugs, not just compounds. That change addressed the problem of manufacturers slightly altering the formula of a banned drug to get around laws outlawing a specific substance. And allowing these classes to be identified by regulation instead of state law lets counties and law enforcement respond promptly to new drugs.
“When the General Assembly began tackling the growing epidemic of synthetic drugs, it became clear that we needed a quicker mechanism to take them off the shelves before they could get a foothold in our communities,” said Tilley. “This streamlined process will save lives and give law enforcement a powerful tool no matter how this battlefield changes. I’m proud I could play a role in helping to make this possible.”
The Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, in collaboration with the Kentucky State Police Crime Lab, identified new synthetic cannabinoids that were not listed in statute as Schedule 1 substances, and requested the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to use its authority to classify the chemicals as Schedule 1 substances.
Also under the law, drug forfeiture laws that apply to other illegal substances could be used to prosecute people who sell synthetics. Retailers could be fined twice the amount of profit they made from selling the products, and those convicted of selling the drugs could lose their liquor licenses.
Because the regulations are designated as emergency, they are effective immediately.