Task force organizes to fight war on synthetic drugs - East Valley Tribune: Public Safety

Task force organizes to fight war on synthetic drugs

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Posted: Wednesday, October 3, 2012 6:11 am | Updated: 2:32 pm, Wed Nov 27, 2013.

Prosecutors and police throughout the Valley are continuing to push back against the war on synthetic drugs.

Law enforcement agencies say they have faced an uphill battle the last two years against various illegal chemicals often used in spice and other drugs commonly referred to as Bath Salts and not being able to get a handle on chemists altering the chemicals to make their sale legal. The next step is to organize a formal plan in hopes of staying ahead of the curve

Prosecutors and police hope that part of that plan will include legislation with teeth to stop the sale and distribution of the drugs while cracking down on — if not ultimately closing — the businesses that sell them. They also want to more aggressively go after online businesses where many college and high school students are purchasing the drugs.

About 25 members of law enforcement, including Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, school officials and drug prevention officials, attended the Mesa Prevention Alliance Synthetic Drug Task Force meeting at Arizona State University’s SkySong campus in south Scottsdale on Tuesday.

During the meeting in which Montgomery was the guest speaker, he stressed the importance of law enforcement to be able to identify the dangerous and illegal chemicals in synthetic drugs mostly being used by younger men.

Prosecutors in Yavapai County now can seek injunctions against smoke shops and other retail outlets selling them, and Maricopa County hopes to eventually move toward being able to have similar provisions in place. The injunctions come amid a “tricky balancing act” by law enforcement in determining probable cause as to whether some of the ingredients or chemicals in Spice are illegal in order to confiscate the drug so investigators can successfully work their way up the chain to not only prosecute the user but the seller.

“We’re establishing that these drugs are not safe to use and that they’re a threat to health, safety and welfare,” Montgomery said during the meeting. “I’m not going to listen to these business owners who are insisting they are just pursuing economic opportunity by selling these drugs. We also have to have data to support those claims. When it comes to criminal law or a criminal act, the law has to be very specific in what you can and cannot have. All it takes is for a chemist to alter the chemicals somewhat, and they circumvent the law.”

“If we can go after business owners, we will,” Montgomery added, who said his office also is eyeing major retailers who are selling various stimulants that likely have illegal chemicals in them.

As of the spring, Arizona laws have included seven of the known synthetic cathinones used in the creation of bath salts that have been classified as dangerous drugs and prohibited for possession, use or sale under Arizona state law: fluoromethcathinone, methoxymethcathinone, methyleenedioxymethcathinone, methylenedioxypryovalerone, butylone, methylmethcathinne and napthylpyrovalerone.

David Shuff, director of student support services for Mesa Unified School District, said that something has to be done in the way of laws being put in place to reflect what manufacturers are putting into Spice that students often buy and are caught with on campus. However, it is hard to know what substances or chemicals are being placed in Spice, Shuff said.

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