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For Those on Probation, Synthetic Drug Use is a Murky Area

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Law enforcement officials in Florida are facing the thorny question of how to handle people on probation who get caught using synthetic drugs, the Sun Sentinel reports.

Florida attorney Andrew Smallman told the newspaper, “For people on probation, in their minds this stuff would be ideal for them to use as a substitute for illegal drugs. They can buy it at the store and it’s out in the open. It’s just like buying a cigar or a cigarette.”

Smallman is representing Jimmy Hewett, whose probation officer had him tested for synthetic marijuana. After he tested positive for Spice, a judge issued a warrant for his arrest. On Tuesday, Hewett is scheduled to answer to the court for violating probation, the article notes. If found guilty, Hewett could be sentenced to five years in prison, Smallman said.

He added he will ask for proof the chemicals in his client’s drug test were on the list of banned compounds. Last year, Florida banned several forms of synthetic drugs. Since then, chemists have been able to come up with similar formulas that evade the law.

Experts say even with sophisticated drug testing, toxicologists are having a difficult time detecting the new chemical compounds. The tests, at $200 to $300 each, are too expensive for the state to use on every person on probation or parole, experts say.

Broward County Public Defender Howard Finkelstein said he will be watching the Hewett case closely. “If I go to 7-Eleven to buy Spice and it’s openly sold and it’s not marketed as mind-altering, why is it I have violated my probation?” he said. “You have to be specific. You can’t just say you can’t use mind-altering drugs.”

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