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Prosecutors want synthetic drug law changed

By Preston Ayres, payres@wcyb.com
Published On: Jan 08 2013 12:02:17 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 08 2013 04:13:35 PM CST

A year ago synthetic drugs were an epidemic in the Tri-Cities; then a new state law closed the shops selling the drugs and helped slow down the problem.

A year ago synthetic drugs were an epidemic in the Tri-Cities; then a new state law closed the shops selling the drugs and helped slow down the problem.

But in the courtroom, convictions have not always been a slam dunk.  "Even though the law has been very effective, we believe it needs to be tweaked and improved," says Sullivan County District Attorney Barry Staubus.

District attorneys across the state are pushing lawmakers to make a simple one-word change in how the law is written.

Staubus says some of the manufactures have found a way to chemically alter the drugs to where they do not appear as direct links to illegal drugs.  "The problem is the producers have become more sophisticated and found a way to produce drugs that are dangerous," says Staubus.

Current law says prosecutors must prove a substance is made using an already illegal drug and it has no medicinal purpose with negative effects.

But it seems the makers have found a way to chemically hide what truly in their product from forensic chemists.

 “We have had some cases that they could not say this is an analog,” says Staubus, “what I attribute that to is the ever growing sophistication of the people producing these drugs."

Now they want to change and to or meaning prosecutors only have to prove one of the two criteria in the courtroom.

"We can look at the properties it has in it, it's dangerous, has no medicinal use, look at the effect of the drug has on an individual, take the criteria its sold, the amount its sold for and what the people selling it represent it will do," explained Staubus.

The district attorney says this is not uncommon for a new law to need adjustments soon after being passed.

He even warned the lawmakers last year during his testimony they might have to make changes down the road.

Bristol state representative Jon Lundberg plans to introduce legislation that would tweak the current law and Kingsport state representative Tony Shipley plans to introduce a bill that would expand the synthetic drug laws even more.