RYAN SCOTT OTTNEY
PDT Staff Writer
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear on Thursday ceremonially signed House Bill 481, banning entire classes of synthetic drugs. Beshear said the law would help Kentucky stay a step ahead of backyard chemists who constantly change the formulas of banned drugs to keep them legal.
The law was passed by Kentucky lawmakers in this year’s legislative session, targeting substances that are often sold as bath salts and potpourri but which have harmful and hallucinogenic effects. The law closes legal loopholes by banning classes, not just compounds, of synthetic drugs. It also extends seizure and forfeiture laws to retailers who sell the items, makes sales a felony for a second or subsequent offense, and makes simple possession a misdemeanor. In addition, HB 481 allows a fine to be imposed that is equal to double the gain the offender would have made.
According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, the number of calls related to bath salt exposure received by poison control centers across the country increased by more than 20 times in 2011 alone, up from 304 in 2010 to 6,138.
“This measure will curtail underground chemists from tweaking a formula to get around a ban on a specific chemical substance and will go a long way toward protecting our communities and our families,” Beshear said.
Beshear applauded Rep. John Tilley for what Beshear called Tilley’s leadership in the passage of the bill.
“The sale and use of synthetic drugs had become an epidemic, so I’m proud to have crafted a law in HB 481 that will put a stop to this scourge, a plague that was threatening the very lifeblood of our Commonwealth,” said Tilley of Hopkinsville, who sponsored the legislation.
The bill is one of several laws enacted this year to curb drug abuse in the commonwealth.
In late March, lawmakers approved and Beshear later signed Senate Bill 3, which limited the amount of cold or allergy medication containing pseudoephedrine — a key ingredient in methamphetamine that consumers can buy without a prescription. In April, legislators passed and Beshear signed House Bill 1, a measure aimed at tackling prescription drug abuse by requiring pain management clinics to be owned by a licensed medical practitioner and mandating participation in Kentucky’s electronic prescription monitoring program known as KASPER (Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting).
Additionally, Beshear said his office has also participated in many other initiatives to assist law enforcement and communities in dealing with substance abuse. Among them, he cites his participation in a national prescription drug abuse summit in Florida in April; joining the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy’s Prescription Monitoring Program InterConnect; creating an Interstate Prescription Drug Task Force with officials from Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia; and continuing to invest resources in substance abuse treatment.
Ryan Scott Ottney can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 235, or firstname.lastname@example.org.