Our Opinion: Synthetic drugs create real dangers

The makers of synthetic substances that mimic illegal drugs are both inventive and adept at marketing.

That’s an observation, not a compliment. We would prefer they channel their talents to less dangerous endeavors.

Unless and until that happens, lawmakers will need to continue following in their wake and criminalizing their creations.

The most recent incarnation is legislation approved Tuesday to outlaw “bath salts,” which produce a high reportedly similar to the effect of cocaine. Physical side effects also reported include elevated heart rates, hallucinations and violent tendencies.

The offending bath salts can easily be distinguished from legitimate bath salts based on price. The synthetic drug sells for upwards of $27 for a 250-milligram package, compared with about $4 for a much larger container of the additive to bath water.

In addition to bath salts, the new legislation criminalizes the synthetic marijuana known as K-3, a variant of its previously outlawed predecessor, K-2.

The law’s expanded definition of marijuana is designed to include synthetic forms, but only time will tell if someone will concoct another variant or new synthetic substance that defies the legal definition.

If these synthetic substances were benign, we would question the time and energy devoted to outlawing them.

They are, however, anything but benign.

Law enforcement authorities — in Missouri and elsewhere — have reported an increase in the use of bath salts linked to a corresponding increase in aberrant and criminal behavior, injuries and deaths.

During discussion of the proposal, one lawmaker accurately characterized the synthetic drugs as “poison.”

Bath salts and other synthetic drugs jeopardize the people who use them as well as the people they encounter.

The bill has been approved by both chambers of the Legislature and advanced to Gov. Jay Nixon.

We encourage him to sign this important public safety enhancement.

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