INDIANAPOLIS – A bill that would strengthen Indiana’s laws on synthetic drugs has passed out of committee and will go to the full Senate for consideration.
Senate Bill 536 redefines synthetic drugs and also alters the definition of “intoxication” to include impairment. It passed in a 6-3 vote Tuesday in the Senate Committee on Corrections and Criminal Law.
SB 536 would change the definition of a synthetic drug to include:
- A substance a reasonable person would believe is a synthetic drug.
- A substance a reasonable person would believe is being sold or purchased as a synthetic drug.
- A substance that a person knows or should have known is intended to be consumed and that consumption is intended to cause or simulate intoxication.
Under Indiana Code, intoxication only includes impairment by certain substances like alcohol and controlled drugs. The new definition would include impairment by any substance excluding food and food ingredients, tobacco or a dietary supplement.
According to Sen. Jim Merritt—the bill’s author—the changes would give law enforcement the tools needed to go after synthetic drug manufacturers and dealers who are making slight changes to the chemical makeup of individual substances to stay a step ahead of police.
“Law enforcement officers are experiencing cases where drivers are severely impaired by unidentified synthetic drugs, but they are unable to make arrests or citations because the substances are too new to be listed in Indiana statute,” Merritt said. “We need to send a strong message to these dangerous drivers as well as to anyone who is manufacturing, selling and buying synthetic drugs in our state. These practices must and will stop.”
Indiana retailers who sell synthetic drugs and lookalikes for profit could see their merchants’ certificates suspended for a year. A second offense would carry felony charges. The bill would also strengthen the Deceptive Consumer Sales Act (DCSA) and the drug nuisance statute in order to help the Attorney General’s office bring civil actions against stores to stop the sale of synthetic drugs.
Officials from the Indiana State Department of Health support the legislation, as do Indiana Attorney General Greg Zeoller, Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council and Indiana State police officials.