The phrase synthetic drugs was previously used to refer to specific types of drugs that were manufactured for use in the dance, party, and rave scenes, specifically, Ecstasy and other MMDA variants.
This category of drugs, however, has expanded and now includes other types of drugs, for example:
- Prescription drugs such as Oxycontin and methadone;
- Date rape drugs, such as ketamine and other drugs;
- Synthetic versions of plant-based substances, such as spice or synthetic marijuana;
- Chemical cocktail drugs, which include bath salts and mixtures of various street drugs;
- Substances intended to mimic the effects of:
- Cocaine; and
- Other drugs;
- Newer drugs, such as Flakka, which can have a variety of unknown effects and consequences.
The term synthetic drug has expanded beyond the party-scene club drugs to include more designer drugs that are intended to mimic the effects of certain drugs, such as:
- Marijuana; and
- Stimulants, such as methamphetamine.
All of these drugs are manufactured in a laboratory. In some cases, they are initially produced for a legitimate legal use but are then diverted for an illegal purpose.
These drugs may also be produced in clandestine laboratories for the international illegal drug market. These types of synthetic drugs may be legal substances that are sold in packages labeled:
- Spices; or
The packages may also be labeled, “not intended for human consumption,” although individuals may still consume them for illicit purposes. The manufacturers of synthetic drugs typically modify the chemistry of an illegal or a controlled substance and create another drug that will escape identification as a controlled substance under existing laws.
Manufacturers may also label the substances, “not for human consumption,” to mask their intended purpose and avoid Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulation of their manufacturing process. There are two categories of synthetic drugs based on their chemical makeup, including:
- Cannabinoids: These are chemicals that mimic the effect of THC, which is the active ingredient in marijuana;
- They have names including K2 and spice; and
- Stimulants: These are synthetics, such as Bath Salts. The majority of these contain chemical compounds that mimic the effects of cocaine, LSD or methamphetamine;
- They have names such as ecstasy and Molly.
Fentanyl is one example of a synthetic drug, specifically a synthetic opioid. Opioids are drugs that have similar effects to those of morphine, an opium derivative.
However, fentanyl is 80 to 100 times stronger than morphine. It is manufactured legitimately and may be prescribed for pain management.
When prescribed, it is applied using a patch on the patient’s skin. Due to its powerful opioid properties, fentanyl is also used for illicit purposes.
There are underground manufacturers who will add it to heroin to increase the potency or it may be disguised as highly potent heroin. A user may believe that they are purchasing heroin and do not know that they are buying something much stronger and more dangerous, fentanyl.
What Is Synthetic Cannabis?
Synthetic cannabis, also called synthetic marijuana is a drug that is intended to mimic the effects of marijuana when smoked or ingested. Although it may visually resemble marijuana, it is made with a variety of synthetic chemicals.
Usually, a synthetic cannabis manufacturer will spray the chemicals on a plant base. Synthetic marijuana is commonly marketed as:
- Herbal incense; and
The actual chemical competition of synthetic marijuana is very inconsistent and may include a number of substances that are dangerous for individuals to consume. There are numerous documented cases of synthetic cannabis users becoming very ill or suffering dangerous side effects.
The Federal Government enacted the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act in 2012, which designated the majority of synthetic cannabis compounds as dangerous Schedule I drugs. In addition, synthetic marijuana laws may vary by state.
In the majority of states, possession of synthetic cannabinoids is against the law.
Is Synthetic Marijuana Safe to Use?
In general, synthetic marijuana is considered more dangerous than marijuana. This is because the chemicals that are used in synthetic marijuana are not consistent and may be difficult to regulate.
There is no real way for consumers to know exactly what chemicals are being used and in what quantities. Synthetic marijuana may lead to serious and dangerous side effects, including:
- Panic and severe anxiety;
- Hallucinating or suicidal thoughts; and
- Seizures and muscular spasms or convulsions.
The effects of certain synthetic marijuana products may be similar to those of bath salts as well as other synthetic drugs. As a result of this issue, some states have banned synthetic marijuana products, both for personal use and for sale.
Is Synthetic Cannabis Illegal?
Synthetic marijuana is highly regulated because of its dangerous nature. Similar to other synthetic drugs, synthetic cannabis is associated with a number of side effects and adverse reactions, which may include:
- Changes in:
- thought; and
- Seizures and spasms; or
Cases of violent suicide have also been linked to synthetic drug use, even in cases that only involve one-time usage. Some studies have also shown that synthetic drugs are more addictive than stimulants, such as methamphetamines.
Unfortunately, many individuals are attracted to synthetic cannabis because of its low cost, easy availability, as well as other factors. Consumers should inform law enforcement of any products being sold that might be used or marketed as synthetic cannabis.
The possession of synthetic drugs is regulated by federal and state laws. There are 26 types of cannabinoids and cathinones in the Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).
What Are the Penalties for Synthetic Cannabis Crimes?
Federal law makes it illegal to possess, sell, or distribute synthetic cannabis. If an individual faces possession of synthetic cannabis charges, they may face:
- Significant jail time;
- Large fines; and
- Mandatory minimum sentencing.
In contrast to naturally cultivated marijuana, all 50 states ban some or all forms of synthetic cannabis. Under state laws, an individual may face felony charges for an of the following with synthetic cannabis:
- Possession; or
Because the penalties an individual may face will depend on state law and the individual’s case, it is important to consult with an attorney for more information. The criminal penalties for synthetic marijuana crimes often involve jail time and fines.
A misdemeanor conviction for possession of fake marijuana may result in:
- Up to 1 year in jail;
- Criminal fines of up to $1,000; or
- A combination of both.
If an individual sells, distributes, or manufactures synthetic marijuana, they may face felony charges, which may result in higher criminal fines and more than one year in prison. The legal status and penalties for synthetic marijuana will vary by state.
There are some states that also have related charges, referred to as imitation controlled substance violations. These charges involve fake substances that are intended to be passed off as real drugs.
These offenses may or may not involve synthetic substances. Synthetic drugs are not always considered to be imitation controlled substances.
An imitation controlled substance violation often results in similar criminal penalties. There are various defenses that may exist for synthetic marijuana charges.
Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help with Synthetic Cannabis Charges?
Similar to most drug charges, a synthetic cannabis conviction may result in significant penalties, including large fines and jail time. A drug crime conviction may also complicate your future employability and housing options.
If you are charged with synthetic cannabis possession, use, or distribution of synthetic cannabis, you should contact a drug lawyer as soon as possible. Your lawyer can help you protect your constitutional rights, present available defenses, and negotiate with the prosecution on your behalf.