BRISTOL, Tenn. — Designer drugs are being blamed for at least two deaths in the Tri-Cities and police said a loophole in the law is the reason why they can’t arrest people for using or selling the drugs.
The state of Tennessee does currently have a law that bans K2 incense, synthetic marijuana sold as “incense” that is sprayed with a hallucinogen. That law specifically names the ingredients used in K2 incense. “The only thing that is illegal in the state of Tennessee concerning synthetic marijuana is if the hallucinogenic that is sprayed on the plant material falls under one of four very narrow categories,” said Gene Perrin, Assistant District Attorney General, Hawkins County, Tennessee. “What they’re selling is just as dangerous to consumers.”
However, manufacturers are changing their formulas, ingredients and packages which make their product legal again under the law. “The people manufacturing this stuff will keep up with the case law as well as we do. They know they can change molecule ‘A’ into something else and it won’t meet the legal definition and they can go back to selling it,” said Capt. Charles Thomas, Bristol, Tennessee.
A new consumer phenomenon is called “bath salts.” Bristol, Tennessee police said it has the same effect as meth but it is legal, so they can’t arrest anyone for buying, selling or using the synthetic drug. “When it comes to bath salts, which are catching on, there is no legislation that helps us address the sale or consumption of bath salts. Only when they commit a crime are we able to do anything about them,” said Perrin.
Perrin said because the drugs are legal and so easily available, bath salts are turning into a deadly designer drug. “We are seeing the emergency rooms filling up with individuals under the influence of bath salts. I’m aware of at least 2 people in Bristol, Tennessee who have died from the consumption of bath salts,” Perrin said. “We are facing significant challenges from a law enforcement stand point of taking these people under the influence of bath salts into custody. We’re trying to do things with them so they won’t harm themselves or others. And the problem is, we can’t put them in jail for being under the influence of bath salts because at this time, it’s not illegal.”