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Iowa Tries to Find Ways to Keep Ahead of Synthetic Marijuana Makers

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The Iowa Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy is trying to find ways to stay one step ahead of synthetic marijuana manufacturers.

The Gazette reports the state legislature passed a bill two years ago that banned six common chemicals found in the products. Steve Lukan, the state’s Drug Policy Control Director, says synthetic drug makers can easily change the chemical makeup of the products using similar substances.

Currently, substances can only be added to the controlled substances list in Iowa after the legislature approves them, or if the federal government adds them to the list of banned chemicals. In the meantime, companies can hire scientists to come up with new compounds with similar effects, which they market as safe and legal. The new compounds cannot be banned until police collect them and send them to the state crime lab for testing, the article notes.

“There is always a challenge with the different compounds changing and people being able to put them on the shelf,” Lukan told the newspaper. “When the law passed, I think retailers took these things off the shelves and a lot of families woke up to realize these are very dangerous problems, but we still see a committed group of sellers and people are still buying it.”

The Governor’s Office has introduced two bills to combat the problem. One bill allows the state pharmacy board to temporarily designate a substance a controlled substance if it poses an imminent hazard to public safety. The bill increases the punishment to manufacture, deliver or possess the substance from an aggravated misdemeanor, to a felony.

A second bill would subject synthetic marijuana to drug tax stamp laws, and would expand the definition of a dealer to include businesses that sell the drugs.

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