The case of a Florida man arrested as part of nationwide synthetic drug sweep could have implications across the country, the Orlando Sentinel reports.
Federal agents arrested Ilan Fedida last year for making illegal synthetic marijuana. They said he sold it to gas stations and smoke shops. Fedida claims he was making incense. The arrests were part of “Operation Log Jam,” in which the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) arrested more than 90 people, seized over 5 million packets of drugs, and more than $26 million in cash.
Under a provision in federal law, designer synthetic drugs can be treated as controlled substances if they are proved to be chemically or pharmacologically similar to certain drugs, the article notes. This provision is aimed at drugs not specifically prohibited by the Controlled Substances Act.
Fedida’s defense attorney, Cynthia Hawkins, argues there is no scientific standard for determining whether the substances he used were substantially similar to those that are considered illegal. According to the newspaper, Hawkins says “substantially similar” is a legal term, not a chemistry term, and interpretation by chemists can differ.
Hawkins said Fedida used chemical compounds he did not think were illegal, and were not on a list of banned chemical compounds published by the DEA last summer. “These substances are available for sale on the Internet,” she said. “There are no guidelines as to who will be charged and who will not, giving law enforcement unfettered discretion.”
Federal prosecutors argue Fedida knew he was selling synthetic marijuana, with ingredients that make people high. The judge in the case has not yet made a ruling.