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Updated: Monday, 26 Mar 2012, 12:27 AM EDT
Published : Monday, 26 Mar 2012, 12:24 AM EDT
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - A new crackdown is underway in Indiana on the sale and possession of synthetic drugs, known by names like "spice," "K2" and "bath salts." Governor Mitch Daniels signed a stronger ban on the substances into law last week.
An I Team 8 hidden camera investigation first exposed the dangers of these substances last year. Users have reported the highs mimic those of marijuana, cocaine and other illegal drugs. The Indiana Poison Center says the drugs can cause rapid heartbeat, deluisions and paranoia. The chemicals have also been linked to several reports of suicide.
Outraged lawmakers who saw I Team 8’s investigation immediately began work on a new ban that adds more than 60 new compounds to the previous law. The new law, known as HEA 1196, also gives the Indiana Board of Pharmacy the authority to “emergency schedule” additional chemicals as a “stop gap measure” until lawmakers can outlaw them. That provision came after I Team 8 found retailers in Central Indiana skirting the 2011 state law by slightly altering the chemical makeup of the compounds in order to keep them technically legal.
HEA 1196 took effect upon the Governor’s signature on March 15, but Indiana State Police gave store owners until Sunday to drop off the now illegal compounds at any state police post with no questions asked. It wasn’t an “amnesty period,” they stressed, but an opportunity for store owners and those in possession of the compounds to discard them safely.
But, at Indianapolis’ ISP post on the east side, officers reported no synthetic drugs had been dropped off Sunday.
I Team 8 went out in search of those still selling.
A SECOND SEARCH
Six months ago, our hidden cameras found a gas station on the southeast side of Indianapolis offering nearly 20 different types of "incense" for sale. It was labeled “not for human consumption” and advertised as a “third generation” that did not contain a long list of chemical compounds banned under the 2011 law.
We bought several different types of the incense last year, with no questions asked. The Indiana State Police Forensics Lab tested the compounds and found they did not contain illegal substances at the time.
That changed last week when HEA 1196 took effect.
When our undercover buyer went inside Sunday, he got a different response from the clerk.
“They banned it, man,” the clerk told our undercover buyer.
Asked if the convenience store used to sell the compounds, the clerk shrugged his shoulders.
“I don't know, man,” he said. “They banned it."
We found the same story at a head shop on South Madison Avenue where we bought what users termed as a type of synthetic cocaine last year. When we returned on Sunday, our undercover buyer asked if the store still sold the compound.
“No,” the clerk replied. “Those have been banned for a while. Those got banned like a few weeks ago.”
We asked about another previously popular brand that the store offered last year.
“That was banned too,” he said. “Anything like that. I've got other things that can give you energy and euphoria, but, nothing like that.”
Our undercover buyer struck out again just down the road at a smoke shop, where we bought a type of “herbal incense” last year. He asked if the store still sold it.
“Not anymore,” the clerk told him. “We haven't had it for like two months.”
But, when I Team 8 went inside to confront the clerk, we found the store did have something else.
SUNDAY SALES FINAL
As we entered the store, we found several packages that appeared very similar to the previous “herbal incense” we purchased there last year.
They went by names like “Cloud 9” and “Pulse” and were marked for sale at around $20 each.
We asked the clerk what they were.
“I don't know anything about it,” she replied, hiding her face behind her hands. “I just work here.”
A sign hung on the door nearby reading: "when we close Sunday night, we will no longer have Cloud 9 or White Girl.”
Products by both names have been sold as spice and bath salts in the past. The chemicals contained in them when they were tested by the State Police Forensics Lab late last year are now illegal under HEA 1196.
PLANS TO CRACK DOWN
“It was a legal item until a week ago. Now it's illegal. We just want to get them off the shelves of the businesses, out of people's hands, properly destroyed,” Indiana State Police Captain David Bursten told I Team 8.
Bursten said he believes most retailers want to “do the right thing.” But, he stressed that must include proper disposal.
“Our biggest concern is that people--particularly business owners--might throw these out into a dumpster or just pitch them out or discard them where they could be picked up by children or other adults who would further abuse them. And, we want to avoid it going into the water system by making sure it’s not flushed down a toilet of something of that nature,” he said.
Starting Monday, officers will be out following up on what I Team 8 uncovered, as well as on other tips statewide.
they still have it on their shelves, selling it, there will be undercover officers making purchases,” Bursten said. “They will take anything they purchased to the State Police Lab. It will be analyzed, and if it turns out to be one of the illegal drugs, we will be coming back to that business with warrants in hand to arrest the clerk that made the sale and to start the process to revoke the retailer's license for one year. And, that will effectively put them out of business.”
There is one more option for those who want to comply with the new law. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency will host its own "drug drop off" program at all Indiana State Police posts except for the Post on the Indiana Toll Road on April 28 th, again, with no questions asked.
Any retailer caught selling the banned substances can face up to eight years in prison and a $10,000 fine.