Saying the law would help Kentucky stay one step ahead of backyard chemists who constantly change the formulas of banned drugs to keep them legal, Governor Steve Beshear Friday ceremonially signed House Bill 481, which bans whole classes of synthetic drugs.
The new law, which was passed by lawmakers in this year's legislative session, targets substances that are often sold as bath salts and potpourri but which have harmful and hallucinogenic effects.
"This measure will curtail underground chemists from tweaking a formula to get around a ban on a specific chemical substance and will go a long way toward protecting our communities and our families," Gov. Beshear said. "I applaud Rep. John Tilley for his leadership in the passage of the bill."
The law closes legal loopholes by banning classes, not just compounds, of synthetic drugs. It also extends seizure and forfeiture laws to retailers who sell the items, makes sales a felony for a second or subsequent offense, and makes simple possession a misdemeanor. In addition, HB 481 allows a fine to be imposed that's equal to double the gain the offender would have made.
According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, the number of calls related to bath salt exposure received by poison control centers across the country increased by more than 20 times in 2011 alone, up from 304 in 2010 to 6,138.
"The sale and use of synthetic drugs had become an epidemic, so I'm proud to have crafted a law in HB 481 that will put a stop to this scourge, a plague that was threatening the very lifeblood of our Commonwealth," said Rep. John Tilley of Hopkinsville, who sponsored the legislation.
Van Ingram, executive director of the Office of Drug Control Policy, applauded Rep. Tilley's leadership in sponsoring the legislation.
"Synthetic drugs are often marketed as harmless household products, and this law allows us to combat this threat and educate people about the tremendous health risk posed by these substances," Ingram said.
The bill is one of several laws enacted this year to curb drug abuse in the Commonwealth.
In late March, lawmakers approved and Gov. Beshear later signed Senate Bill 3, which limited the amount of cold or allergy medication containing pseudoephedrine – a key ingredient in methamphetamine that consumers can buy without a prescription.
In April, legislators passed and Gov. Beshear signed House Bill 1, a measure aimed at tackling prescription drug abuse by requiring pain management clinics to be owned by a licensed medical practitioner and mandating participation in KASPER, Kentucky's electronic prescription monitoring program.
These new laws come in the wake of numerous other initiatives Gov. Beshear's administration has taken to assist law enforcement and communities in dealing with substance abuse, including:
Participating in a national prescription drug abuse summit in Florida in April. During that meeting, Gov. Beshear called for states and the federal government to develop aggressive shared tactics to thwart the devastating effects of prescription drug abuse;