Iowa group protests synthetic drugs on 4/20


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A local group is advocating for the banning of synthetic drugs, many of which are currently legal in Iowa.

Iowans Against Synthetic, a local group created to increase public awareness of the dangers of synthetic drug use, held its first protest outside the Den, 123 E. Washington St., on April 20.

The group was created March 2013 after the two cofounders, Amy Sorensen and Brydie Criswell, dealt with synthetic-drug abuse in their families. They held a public information session on April 18 in which 40 to 50 people attended, Sorensen said.

Sen. Bob Dvorsky, D-Coralville, said he doesn’t know what the answer is when trying to prevent synthetic drug use.

“The problem is that our law serves the synthetic drugs that we know of, but when we outlaw them, something is changed about the formula that makes them different,” he said.

The Iowa Legislature passed a law in May 2012 making it illegal in Iowa to possess, manufacture, or distribute certain types of synthetic drugs. President Obama signed a similar law in July 2012 that outlawed 31 compounds used in the manufacturing of synthetic drugs. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, introduced the bill in March 2011.

Dvorsky encourages community involvement to educate about the effects of synthetic drugs.

“It’s good when people come together and when they are working with the police to help with public awareness,” he said.

Downtown police Officer David Schwindt said he considers synthetic drug use a major problem in Iowa City. This is because it’s an unregulated substance, and people are unaware of the side effects or long-term effects when taking synthetic drugs, he said.

“It is something that we come across on a daily basis in patrol of Iowa City,” he said. “Typically, when we deal with people who have been using the synthetic, they are acting aggressively, hallucinating, and many times they are incapacitated and have to be transported by ambulances to the hospital, but those are extreme cases.”

Iowans Against Synthetic is targeting teenagers to college-age students because of the easy availability of the drug.

“I think the age group right now that is using [synthetic drugs] the most is using them because it so accessible, because their friends that are 18-years-old can just buy it over the counter in convenience stores,” Criswell said.

The Den is one establishment in Iowa City that sells synthetic drugs.

The group’s choice to target this location was because of the location and availability the store has in the community, Sorensen said. Den employees refused to comment on April 20.

“There are lots of kids that are purchasing synthetic thinking it is fake pot,” Criswell said. “The number of kids using synthetic drugs can be as young as 12-years-old, all the way to college-age kids.”

Protester and 50-year-old parent Geoff Mecham said he was not aware of synthetic drugs until his stepson became involved in them. However, he said he is adamant on trying to get state and local lawmakers involved.

“It’s killing our youth, and we need to get this banned not only in Iowa, but we need to get banned across the country,” he said. “They are businessmen designed as drug dealers.”

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