What others say: Crackdown on synthetic drugs will help combat substance abuse

The “War on Drugs” has come in for a fair amount of derision in the years since President Nixon first brought up the phrase back in 1971. Opponents of a strong government law enforcement effort against drug abuse say the “war” has been a costly flop.

But government clearly has a role in reducing drug abuse, as demonstrated by the ever-evolving ways in which illegal drugs are concocted and marketed. As drug-makers evolve, so too must the law.

That is why the bill signed this week by Gov. Sean Parnell is a necessary additional weapon in the war that will, in all likelihood, never end.

The new law, introduced in the Legislature as Senate Bill 173 by Sen. Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage, takes aim primarily at the packaging of synthetic drugs.

What are these synthetic drugs?

Synthetic marijuana, for example, is often called “spice” and is sold in retail stores as herbal incense or potpourri and often labeled as “Not for human consumption” — though, of course, the person buying the product fully intends to smoke it to get high. Spice is made from dried and shredded plant material to which mind-altering chemicals are added, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. It is sold under such labels as K2, fake weed, Yucatan Fire, Skunk and Moon Rocks, the agency says.

Spice is popular among young people, which is more reason for concern. “Of the illicit drugs most used by high-school seniors, they are second only to marijuana. They are more popular among boys than girls — in 2012, nearly twice as many male 12th graders reported past-year use of synthetic marijuana as females in the same age group,” the agency says. “Easy access and the misperception that spice products are ‘natural’ and therefore harmless have likely contributed to their popularity.”

There’s also synthetic cocaine, known as “bath salts.” This dangerous drug consists of the man-made chemicals methylenedioxypyrovalerone, mephedrone and methylone.

The synthetics are here in Alaska — and in Fairbanks, according to authorities.

The new law has a lengthy description of what constitutes an illicit synthetic drug. Among the tell-tale signs, according to the law: a label that is false or misleading; a label that suggests the user will achieve “euphoria, a hallucination, mood enhancement, relaxation, stimulation or another effect on the body”; a label that does not specify the identity of the substances contained in the product and does not list the name and place of business of the manufacturer, packer or distributor.

It’s unfortunate, of course, that the law is needed at all. But, based on reports of the effectiveness of similar laws elsewhere, we can expect a positive outcome in Alaska.

— Fairbanks Daily News-Miner,

July 18

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