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Ohio lawmakers must keep up with drug abusers

October 26, 2011
Salem News

That's two down and who knows how many to go. That is how Ohio legislators should view a new law intended to crack down on synthetic "recreational" drugs.

A law that took effect this summer places substances known as "bath salts," "spice" and "K2" on the state's list of controlled substances. The three products mimic the effects of already banned drugs like marijuana.

Because the three substances had not previously been listed as illegal drugs, they could be sold openly - and were. But public health officials have pointed out all three can be hazardous to the health of users.

Now, those who sell "bath salts," "spice" and "K2" can be arrested and charged with crimes. Penalties are similar to those for possession or sale of marijuana.

It's a good step - but, again, it won't stop sale and use of new compounds intended to produce the same effects as illegal hallucinogens. Rest assured that within a few months, substances with different names and chemical compositions will be available legally throughout the Buckeye State.

The war against drugs has been compared to Prohibition, when millions of Americans broke the law by producing and consuming then-illegal alcoholic beverages. But there is a critical difference now: Instead of manufacturing alcoholic beverages, clearly identifiable and illegal because of the main ingredient, drug abusers are constantly finding new chemicals to make them high.

That isn't illegal until the substances have been identified and specifically banned as controlled substances.

Law enforcement agencies and state legislatures find it nearly impossible to keep up with the inventiveness of drug abusers. The fact that "bath salts" and the other two products were available legally in Ohio for so long makes that clear.

It may be a losing battle, but it is one police and lawmakers in Ohio should continue to wage by acting quickly and decisively against whatever replacements for "bath salts" are invented and marketed. If that requires frequent new legislation to identify and ban the hazardous drugs, so be it.



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