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Synthetic drug makers seek to stay ahead of the law

Florida residents will have likely read news reports in recent months about the dangers posed by synthetic drugs with street names like spice and bath salts. Drug makers who want to avoid lengthy prison sentences sometimes alter the way that illegal substances are made in order to skirt U.S. laws. Federal authorities generally act quickly to outlaw these new compounds, which prompts their manufacturers to tinker with their formulas once again in order to stay one step ahead of the law.

The federal government classifies illegal drugs as either natural, derivative or synthetic. Marijuana is a natural drug, cocaine is a derivative and substances with complex formulas like methamphetamine are classed as synthetics. Some of the latest synthetic drugs have garnered a great deal of media attention recently because their users have been known to go on violent rampages or die after taking them.

Federal law prohibits the selling of substances that are designed to mimic the effects of banned drugs, but possessing or using these substances may not always be illegal. Passing legislation is often more straightforward at the state level, and all 50 states have elected to put laws on their books that banned synthetic cathinones and cannabinoids rather than wait for Congress to take action. Medical experts have also warned drug users that many of the new synthetic substances are far more dangerous than their natural or derivative alternatives.

Criminal defense attorneys may argue fiercely that drug charges should be dropped when their clients purchased the substance in question in a retail store. Attorneys could also seek to have charges dismissed when police officers have strayed beyond boundaries clearly defined by the U.S. Constitution or the evidence against their clients fails to establish their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

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