Iowa lawmakers support federal law banning synthetic drugs


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Iowa lawmakers say a federal bill banning synthetic drugs will protect young adults against the dangers of designer drugs.

A federal bill spearheaded by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, to ban synthetic drug compounds — including K2 and bath salts — now awaits President Obama's signature after receiving full Congressional approval Tuesday.

"This ban can't come quickly enough," Grassley said in a Senate press release. "Just about every day, there's a new tragedy related to K2 or bath salts. The sooner this poison is off the storeshelves, the better. I hope the president will sign this measure into law very quickly."

Grassley introduced the David Mitchell Rozga Act in March 2011 to ban the chemicals that may be combined to produce K2.

In a floor statement, Grassley shared the story of a constituent of his named David Rozga, who committed suicide in 2010 after smoking K2 — a synthetic form of marijuana — just weeks after his high-school graduation. Rozga's death is just one tragedy that helped lawmakers such as Grassley recognize a trend in synthetic drug abuse in recent years.

Dale Woolery, the associate director of the Governor's Office of Drug Control Policy, said the history of drugs such as K2 and bath salts is only 3 years old, and alarms first started ringing after Rozga's suicide.

He said awareness was first spread in Iowa with public-service campaigns and action by the Iowa pharmacies to warn the public.

Woolery hopes the laws will help the public and businesses understand the severity of the problem with the substances.

"The laws were made to prevent people from selling them and to help people understand they are illegal and dangerous," he said. "The package says one thing, but the crime lab says another."

A very similar law regarding synthetic and designer drugs was passed by the Iowa Legislature earlier this year.

Gov. Terry Branstad signed a bill into law May 25, making it illegal in Iowa to possess, manufacture, or distribute three types of hallucinogenic drugs.

"Legislators voted overwhelmingly this year to ban dangerous designer drugs, including K2 and bath salts, which are more and more frequently sending Iowa high-school students and other users to emergency rooms with ill effects," Sen. Bob Dvorsky, D-Coralville, said an Iowa Senate press release.

Iowa City police Sgt. Denise Brotherton said synthetic drugs don't have a huge presence in the community.

"We have encountered it," she said. "It is new, but I don't have all the information. It's still not as prevalent as other drugs, like marijuana and heroin."

Because the drugs can be made in different varieties with the same effects, the manufacturers and suppliers are able to work around laws and regulations, Woolery said.

A few years ago, he said, only eight drug compounds were first identified, but today, there are about 43 compounds and five classes, and there is still the potential to grow.

"We will always be in a reactionary mode," he said.

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