Over the last several years, synthetic drugs have increasingly entered the focus of federal officials at the Drug Enforcement Administration. The legality of these substances is in a constant state of flux, which can create significant complications for consumers.
Not long ago, DEA agents conducted raids on three tobacco stores in Iowa City. At this point, many of the details of the raid have yet to become public information, but initial news reports suggest that the federal officials took "significant" action.
The raid targeted the synthetic compound known as K2, or synthetic marijuana. On a national level, about 150 people have been arrested in connection as the result of synthetic drug enforcement efforts.
When dealing with synthetic drug compounds, the DEA wields significant authority. The agency can reportedly use "emergency" powers in terms of drug scheduling, which expands capabilities to pursue drug charges. Certain substances might not be specifically illegal under the law, but charges can also be pursued if it's determined that they are similar enough in chemical structure to other illegal drugs. In other words, the law is a moving target that could trip up retailers and consumers alike.
The most concerning aspect of this issue is that a person might reasonably assume that they are buying a legal substance if it's up for sale in a retail store. Given the ever-changing dynamics of drug policy when it comes to synthetic products, this assumption may not be the case. Meanwhile, federal officials are being very aggressive about enforcement, which may cause unknowing people to get caught up in legal trouble.
Source: KCRG News, "DEA Synthetic Drug Raids Had Big Impact on Iowa City," Mark Carlson, May 29, 2014