Feb. 13, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Lawmakers Attempt to Keep Up With Synthetic Drugs

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Grassley, co-chairman of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, has said the sale of designer drugs “is a difficult problem without an easy solution.”

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., has advocated for educating young people about the effects of the substances, and the federal law, through media such as Facebook. She says that teenagers are often drawn to the substances’ colorful packaging and names like “Scooby Snax.”

At the end of last year, Norton had one of her aides purchase the substances from a gas station in Anacostia in southeast D.C. — and then visited the store herself and got a promise that the storekeeper would stop selling the drugs.

Beyond running their own sting operations, what can lawmakers do to help law enforcement combat the increasing popularity of these substances? Although Congress could pass more bills regulating existing synthetic compounds, lawmakers would likely run into the same problems that followed the 2012 law.

Feinstein has introduced legislation to help address the legal difficulties law enforcement officials face. Her measure (S 1323) would establish a committee of scientists who would compile a list of synthetic drugs, and make it illegal to import such substances unless they are not intended for human use. The bill also would direct the U.S. Sentencing Commission to review the federal sentencing guidelines for violations related to synthetic drugs.

Another bill (S 1322) from Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., would set standards for determining whether a synthetic drug is intended for human consumption.

Experts say a major factor in the fight against synthetic drugs is educating people, especially youths, about their dangers. Rep. André Carson, D-Ind., has introduced legislation (HR 2148) to include synthetic drug use education as part of a national youth anti-drug media campaign.

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