Broad ban against synthetic drugs moving swiftly through South Dakota LegislatureThe measure would add a general set of definitions for what are known as controlled substance analogues.
By: Bob Mercer, Republic Capitol Bureau
PIERRE — Law enforcement officials would be able to better stay abreast of advances made by underground chemists at the root of the illegal trafficking in synthetic designer drugs in South Dakota, under legislation that is one vote away from final approval in the Legislature.
The measure would add a general set of definitions for what are known as controlled substance analogues. They are chemical combinations that vary only slightly from prescription-only and or generally illegal drugs such as stimulants, depressants, hallucinogens and marijuana.
The analogues are designed and manufactured to get around controlled-substance listings maintained by the state Department of Health and the federal government.
Traditionally, specific drugs are placed on the listings. The addition of a broad definition would give law enforcement additional authority.
In 2012, the Legislature added various specific analogues to the listings. Now a general approach is being pursued too.
“Since last year, as we suspected, more synthetics surfaced,” said Tom Martinec, deputy secretary for the state Deparment of Health.
The House Health and Human Services Committee gave its support Tuesday to the measure. SB 68 heads today to the full House of Representatives.
The Senate previously voted 30-3 for its passage.
State Attorney General Marty Jackley testified in support at the hearing Tuesday. He described synthetic drugs as “an ever-changing field.” He said the legislation “certainly is a strong step in the right direction.”
Jackley said the synthetic drugs are at least being kept beneath the counter now rather than being openly sold as they had been in some businesses in South Dakota. The challenge is countering Internet sales. “There’s just a lot of it out there,” he said.
Spearfish Police Detective Darin Pedneau described the results of a local investigation that netted approximately $500,000 in cash and 17,000 pieces of product.
Dan Satterlee, deputy director of the state Division of Criminal Investigation, said distributors have almost unlimited funds to change the formulas.
No one testified against the legislation. It contains an emergency clause, which means the legislation would take effect immediately upon receiving the governor’s signature rather than July 1. The emergency clause also means a two-thirds majority is necessary.
Rep. Jenna Haggar, R-Sioux Falls, said the emergency clause is good because it means law enforcement could begin using the law as soon as possible.
Said Rep. Steve Hickey, R-Sioux Falls: “We’re moving ahead.”