Missouri House OKs bill targeting synthetic drugs

Wednesday, February 12, 2014 | 7:49 a.m. CST; updated 9:43 a.m. CST, Wednesday, February 12, 2014

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri lawmakers renewed efforts to keep pace with an evolving market of synthetic drugs, giving first-round approval Tuesday to legislation taking aim at several additional chemicals used for the substances.

Sponsoring Rep. Shawn Rhoads said some people have been able to sidestep previous efforts to combat synthetic drugs by changing a molecule or two.

The bill is "basically to stay ahead of or try to keep up with new chemicals as they come out," said Rhoads, R-West Plains. He said the synthetics are dangerous.

The legislation would add several specific substances to what the state considers to be synthetic cannabinoids. It was endorsed by voice-vote and needs a second round of approval before moving to the state Senate.

Missouri lawmakers have sought to restrict synthetic drugs in previous years.

In 2010, the legislature barred spice cannabinoids sprayed on plants and sold as incense known as "K2." Another form of synthetic marijuana called K3 went on the market shortly thereafter, and lawmakers in 2011 expanded the definition of marijuana in state drug laws to cover synthetics.

That year's bill also banned substances marketed as incense or "bath salts" that mimic the effects of cocaine and marijuana.

Law enforcement officers say synthetic cannabinoids can cause a more intense high than marijuana, and other synthetic substances are able to combine the hallucinogenic effects of ecstasy with the stimulant effect of cocaine.

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