Synthetic drugs are drugs that produce similar effects to known hallucinogens and narcotics, but have slight differences in chemical makeup. According to the Florida Office of the Attorney General, these drugs are often marketed as potpourri, bath salts, incense and spice under names like “Scooby Snax,” and “Purple Flake.” Recently, a new designer synthetic drug called “flakka,” known for causing hallucinations and paranoia, has become increasingly popular in Florida.
Effects of Synthetic Drugs
One of the biggest problems with synthetic drugs, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, is the misconception that they are all designed to mimic the effects of marijuana. While many of these products contain synthetic compounds that interact with the brain in a similar fashion to THC – the component of marijuana is responsible for most of the drug’s psychological effects – they do not always produce similar effects:
Here some common, often unexpected, effects of synthetic drugs:
– Dangerous hallucinations
– Agitation and aggression
– Severe paranoia
– Elevated blood pressure
– Vomiting, headaches
– Loss of consciousness
Because many synthetic drugs are new and have not been studied in-depth, the long-term effects of using them are essentially unknown. However, in 2012, the American Association of Poison Control Centers reported 5,212 calls regarding exposure to illicit synthetic substances.
Are Synthetic Drugs Legal?
Contrary to what some believe, synthetic drugs are illegal in Florida. In 2013, the state government designated 26 known synthetic drugs as Schedule 1, meaning they have high potential for abuse and have no accepted medical uses. Before this designation, Governor Rick Scott had 92 chemicals commonly found in synthetic drugs added to the Schedule 1 list.
Depending on the amount, possession of a Schedule 1 drug can be a felony in Florida. Here are the penalties for synthetic drug possession:
Less than three grams: Possession of less than three grams of a synthetic drug is a first-degree misdemeanor. If convicted, the defendant can face:
– One year of probation
– One year in jail
– Fine of up to $1,000
Three grams or more: Possession or three grams or more of a synthetic drug is considered a third degree felony. If convicted, a defendant may face:
– Five years of probation
– Five years in prison
– Fine of up to $5,000
Both convictions may also result in a two-year driver’s license suspension and court-ordered substance abuse evaluation/treatment/screening. Those charged with a felony also face the possible forfeiture of their vehicle or any property used in the crime.
Synthetic Drug Defenses
Here are just a few types of defenses commonly used in synthetic drug possession.
Lack of Knowledge: Because these substances are new and are often packaged to appear friendly and harmless, many users are simply unaware of their effects and of the fact that they are in fact illegal. In such a situation, the defendant can use a lack of knowledge defense.
Overdose Defense: Those seeking or assisting someone else in seeking medical attention for a synthetic drug overdose are immune from possession charges. For this to happen however, it must be clear that the evidence was obtained as a result of the overdose.
Constructive Possession: When a synthetic drug is found where more than one person had access to it, the prosecutor must be able to prove the defendant had not only knowledge of the drug’s presence, but also control over it. If these two factors cannot be proved, the defendant cannot be convicted
Regardless of the circumstances, a conviction for synthetic drug possession can be serious detrimental toward one’s future. If you or a loved one has been charged with synthetic drug possession, call Laporte, Mulligan & Werner-Watkins, P.A. immediately so we can begin building evidence for your defense. Call today for a free consultation.