Padden bill tackling designer drugs heard in House committee

Today the House Commerce and Gaming Committee heard public testimony on a bill sponsored by Sen. Mike Padden that would increase fines for the sale of designer drugs, such as synthetic cannabinoids, cathinones and methcathinones – commonly referred to as “bath salts.” The measure would also create a civil liability under the Consumer Protection Act for the sale of these drugs.

“This bill deals with the growing problems of synthetic marijuana,” testified Padden, R-Spokane Valley. “We have seen a stark uptick in the number of hospital visits due to overdoses of synthetic marijuana in recent years – from 6,000 in 2009 to more than 28,500 nationwide in 2011.

“Those who produce these designer drugs often change the chemical makeup slightly in order to avoid coming under a specific prohibitions. This bill addresses this problem.”

Under Senate Bill 5673, a person convicted of manufacturing, selling or distributing synthetic cannabinoids, cathinones or methcathinones must pay a fine between $10,000 and $500,000, in addition to other criminal and civil penalties. For those selling to minors, the minimum fine would be increased to $25,000.

One difficulty in determining whether synthetic cannabinoids are present in a product is the length of time needed to analyze it. Currently the product must go through a forensic analysis that may take significant time due to laboratory backlogs.

Angela Wolfe with Thermo Fisher Scientific testified in support of the bill, and stressed the need for better means for identifying and dealing with the spread of designer drugs.

“This bill does some very good things for society in trying to limit the use of synthetic cannabinoids,” said Wolfe. “We especially like the instant-ID portion of the bill. The emerging technology is essential to not only getting ahead of this trend, but also making sure that we are dealing with it in the most effective manner.”

SB 5673 passed the Senate earlier this month 47-0. The House commerce committee has scheduled the bill for a vote in that committee later this week.