Bill strengthening penalties on flakka before Kentucky legislators


By Frank Lewis

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Another day another drug seems to be the theme in the tri-state area, and these days, the new synthetic drug Flakka is taking center stage, which is why lawmakers and county leaders will discuss legislation to be pre-filed for the upcoming 2016 Regular Session of the Kentucky General Assembly Monday at 5 p.m. on the third floor of the “old” Lewis County, Kentucky court house, 112 Second Street in Vanceburg, the site of a press conference to be held at that time.

The new drug flakka, which comes in the form of pink or white crystals, has grabbed media headlines over the last few months because of the drug’s side effects, which causes users to act in dangerous, even violent, behaviors. But what is flakka and why should we be so worried about it?

Flakka can be snorted, eaten, injected, or vaporized. It is a cousin of “bath salts,” which are an emerging family of drugs containing one or more synthetic chemicals related to cathinone, an amphetamine-like stimulant found naturally in the khat plant. But flakka is considered more addictive. It is also more dangerous than cocaine, and similar to, but cheaper than methamphetamine. Flakka, which gets its name from the Spanish slang for skinny woman, “la flaca,” also goes by the street name gravel.

“We’ll have several representatives from the Commonwealth and they will be speaking,” Lewis County Sheriff Johnny Bivens said. “This will be the first time that we will see a new bill released in regards to strengthening the laws in regards to synthetic drugs.”

Expected to attend the news conference are Bivens, House Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins, House Judiciary Committee chairman John C. Tilley, Laura Sudkamp, manager of the Kentucky State Police Central Crime Lab, Lewis County Judge-Executive Anthony T. Ruckel, Representative Denny Butler and Representative Mike Denham.

The bill seeks to increase penalties for the unlawful trafficking of synthetic drugs in an effort to fight the dramatic rise in their use in various areas around the Commonwealth. Flakka has been shown to cause a range of extreme symptoms, including paranoia, violent behavior and death. It has been pervasive in Lewis County, where legislative leaders worked with local officials to craft this solution.

“We have had our fair share of it (flakka), especially early in the year,” Bivens said. “Most of our problem is our addicts are going to Scioto County to get it. I think it is currently plaguing Scioto County but I think it’s going to get worse.”

Portsmouth Police Operations Captain Lynn Brewer recently told the Daily Times flakka is in the city of Portsmouth.

Up until the current bill has come up for consideration, the possession of flakka has been only a misdemeanor.

“I have lobbied the legislators to strengthen those laws and Monday evening I think we’re going to see something happen there,” Bivens said.

Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.

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