As the “War on Drugs” has raged on for decades, numerous people across the United States have turned to other seemingly legal substances that can allow them to experience a “high” similar to the euphoric effects of many illicit controlled substances. Synthetic drugs are substances that often have the appearance of illegal drugs but are instead use man-made chemicals to deliver what users believe is a legal high.
Because many types of synthetic drugs were made with legal substances, they could be sold in many different kinds of stores without any kind of prescription or identification requirement as most packages were marketed as being “incense,” “potpourri,” or something similar.
Synthetic drugs, however, were blamed for a dramatic increase in emergency room visits throughout the nation, and lawmakers in Florida have taken numerous steps to make all kinds of synthetic substances illegal.
The end result is now to the point that synthetic drug crimes can carry penalties that are just as steep as those associated with the actual controlled substances they are intended to mimic.
Do you think that you could be under investigation or were you already arrested in South Florida for an alleged criminal offense involving a synthetic drug? You should exercise your right to remain silent until you have legal counsel. Contact Meltzer & Bell, P.A. for help protecting your rights.
Lawrence Meltzer and Steven Bell are criminal defense lawyers in West Palm Beach who aggressively defend clients accused of drug crimes in Jupiter, Boca Raton, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Wellington, and many surrounding areas of Palm Beach County, Miami-Dade County, and Broward County.
Call (561) 283-3259 to have our attorneys provide an honest and thorough evaluation of your case during a free, confidential consultation.
Occasionally referred to as “designer drugs,” synthetic drugs are chemically-laced substances that are intended to provide hallucinogenic effects similar to illegal drugs. The chemicals that are used to make these designer drugs are not prohibited, providing users with a “legal high” even though packaging on such products may be labeled as “not for human consumption.”
One of the most common types of synthetic drugs is synthetic cannabinoids, more commonly known as “synthetic marijuana.” These types of drugs may be marketed as an “herbal smoking mixture.”
Synthetic cannabinoids are often dried, shredded plant-like material that has been sprayed with chemicals, but some cannabinoids may be oils designed to be inhaled in electronic vaporizers or “e-cigarettes.” Some of the popular brand names of such cannabinoids include, but are not limited to:
Another common type of synthetic drugs is synthetic cathinones, commonly referred to as “bath salts.” Depending on the specific product, these drugs usually mimic the effects of such controlled substances as 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, Ecstasy, or Molly), methamphetamine, cocaine, or many others
Synthetic cathinones are often sold as powders that can be snorted or smoked or as liquids that can be smoked using the same vaping devices as synthetic cannabinoids. Some of the popular brand names of synthetic cannabinoids include, but are not limited to:
The classification of a criminal offense involving a synthetic drug depends on the specific type of chemical that was used in the synthetic substance involved. Florida Statute § 893.03(1)(c) currently lists over 200 different “analogs” that include specific synthetic cannabinoids and cathinones.
The chemicals listed under this statute frequently have complex names such as 25I-NBOMe (4-Iodo-2,5-dimethoxy-[N-(2-methoxybenzyl)]phenethylamine). As new legal chemicals are devised to create synthetic drugs with, the attorney general is often signing emergency orders to add more substances to this list of Schedule I illegal drugs.
An alleged offender accused of possession, sale, manufacture, delivery, or possession with intent to sell, manufacture, or deliver a synthetic drug classified as a Schedule I controlled substance will be charged with a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000.
The charges may be enhanced to a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000 if the alleged offense occurs in, on, or within 1,000 feet of the real property comprising any of the following:
In the event that a synthetic drug does not contain a chemical listed under Florida Statute § 893.03(1)(c), the alleged offender can face criminal charges that are based on the controlled substance that the synthetic drug is intended to mimic.
Prosecutors may attempt to argue that an alleged synthetic drug was “substantially similar” to a listed controlled substance—meaning that a there was only a small change in the structure of what would have otherwise have been an illegal drug—to justify such charges.
Certain types of synthetic drugs that are intended to mimic prescription drugs may be classified as a “new drug” under Florida Statute § 499.03, and possession of such substances constitutes a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in jail and/or fine of up to $500. Possession was with the intent to sell, dispense, or deliver a new drug is a third-degree felony.
Drug Abuse Trends in Palm Beach County Florida: July 2015 — View the full text of an annual report from the Palm Beach County Substance Awareness Coalition that examines all kinds of drug abuse trends in Palm Beach County. One section dedicated to “Emerging Drugs and Patterns of Drug Use” specifically covers synthetic cathinones and synthetic cannabinoids. The report states that alpha-PVP (Flakka) is the “most dramatic emerging drug problem in Southeastern Florida.”
Palm Beach County Substance Awareness Coalition
2300 High Ridge Rd.
Boynton Beach, FL 33426
Protecting Floridians from Synthetic Drugs — Visit this section of the Florida Attorney General’s website to learn more about the actions that office has taken in relation to synthetic drugs. You can learn more about the executive order the attorney general signed in 2011 as well as other scheduling actions the office has taken relating to synthetic drugs. You can also view an informational pamphlet, read recent news releases, and find links to assorted national resources.
If you were arrested or believe that you might be under investigation for an alleged synthetic drug crime in South Florida, it is in your best interest to not say anything to authorities until you have legal representation. Meltzer & Bell, P.A. can fight to possibly get these criminal charges reduced or dismissed.
Florida law also regulates emerging substances, not yet included in the schedules, under s. 893.0356, F.S., the Analogue Statute. An analog drug is substantially similar in chemical structure and potential for abuse to a drug already prohibited by statute and is treated the same as the controlled substance to which it is an analog for the purpose of assigning criminal penalties.
West Palm Beach criminal defense attorneys, Lawrence Meltzer and Steven Bell, represent individuals all over Broward County, Palm Beach County, and Miami-Dade County, including Riviera Beach, Palm Beach Gardens, Greenacres, Lake Worth, Royal Palm Beach, and several other nearby communities.
These attorneys can review your case and answer all of your legal questions when you call (561) 283-3259 or fill out an online form to schedule a free initial consultation.
This article was last updated on Friday, March 23, 2018.