News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

June 10, 2013

‘Lookalike’ drug law may be new model

Indiana initiative unlike anything other states have tried

INDIANAPOLIS — In the quickly evolving war on synthetic drugs, Indiana has moved from defense to offense by passing ever-broader laws to combat a shape-shifting enemy operating in a legal gray zone.

Its newest weapon, a “lookalike” drug law, is unlike anything that other states have tried and may become a model law for the nation, according to national drug-law experts.

But first it has to withstand a legal challenge in court.

At issue is Senate Enrolled Act 536, known as the synthetic drug lookalike law, signed by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence in early May and put into effect immediately under an emergency provision.

It makes it illegal to possess or sell products that look like the chemically enhanced substances banned under previous laws targeting products sold legally as incense or bath salts but that mimicked the effects of marijuana and cocaine when smoked or ingested.

“It’s a pioneering effort to get these dangerous substances off of store shelves,” said Heather Gray, the research attorney for the National Alliance of Model State Drug Laws. “It could be a model for other states.”

It’s also the third synthetic-drug law in three years in Indiana, prompted by reports beginning in 2009 of poisonings, psychotic episodes and deaths among users, who are mostly teenagers.

The two previous laws specifically outlawed the man-made chemicals in products like K-2 and Spice, which had become popular alternatives to illegal street drugs. And they gave police and prosecutors the power to crack down on retail outlets selling those items, by threatening to arrest the owners and shut down their businesses.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said those laws made a dent: Across the state, hundreds of gas stations and convenience stores that are part of national chains pulled those products, and others like them, from their shelves.

“We didn’t get rid of it entirely. But we made it illegal and got it away from the candy bars and the cigarettes,” Zoeller said. “We wanted kids to know this is dangerous stuff.”

But it wasn’t enough. Indiana, like every other state caught off-guard by the swift emergence of synthetic drugs, couldn’t keep pace with what Zoeller calls the “greedy drug makers” who stay one step ahead of the law.

That’s because of the nature of synthetic drugs and the endless variety of lab-created chemicals that go into their making. As states raced to outlaw the chemicals, suppliers quickly responded by tweaking their formulas to create new and legal substances that produce similar mind-altering effects.

State Sen. Jim Merritt, who’s led the legislative battle against synthetic drugs, worked with Zoeller and the state’s police and prosecutors to come up with a solution — one that “throws a blanket around this to stop it,” said David Powell, head of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council.

“We didn’t want to encourage these intoxicating synthetics to come in under a different name every time we outlaw one,” Powell said. “It’s a silly game that everyone was playing, and we’re all tired of it.”

The result was legislation that goes far beyond the past laws that identify synthetic drugs based on their chemical makeup.

Instead, it creates a broader definition of synthetic drugs based on appearance. It gives police and prosecutors significant authority to label a product a “look-alike” drug if it visually resembles a product that contains a banned substance — even if it doesn’t scientifically. Merchants selling those lookalike products can face drug trafficking charges and civil actions to seize their inventory and assets.

At the bill signing with Pence, Merritt said the law was a desperately needed approach to keeping dangerous substances out the hands of the drug makers’ targeted audience — teenagers.

 “Today’s ban breaks new ground on this issue,” Merritt said. “I hope it will serve as a blueprint to other states in the fight against these poisons in our community.”

But first, a federal judge has to decide whether the law will stand.

In late May, after police in several Indiana communities used the new law to raid convenience stores that were selling lookalike products, a lawsuit challenging the new law was filed in the U.S. District Court in Indianapolis.

It was brought by four businesses that sell or make aromatherapy products, including herbal incense and air fresheners, that look a lot like the banned products laced with synthetic drugs.

The lawsuit, filed against every county prosecutor and the State of Indiana, argues the new lookalike law gives the state far-reaching power to arbitrarily confiscate legal products from legitimate businesses.

Indianapolis attorney Mark Rutherford, who filed the suit, said the new law is so vague that it’s impossible to ascertain what is legal or illegal when it comes to aromatherapy and incense products. Under the law, Rutherfold said, police and prosecutors could decide that almost anything, from potpourri to talcum powder, is a synthetic drug lookalike.

Rutherford said his clients are harmed by “the bad apples” in their industry who intentionally thumb their nose at the law. “We’re happy when the bad guys are prosecuted,” he said.

But he said the lookalike law is based on a false premise that all products that look like the ones laced with synthetic drugs are all drug-laced.

“It is like calling all blondes stupid, therefore anything that looks like a blonde is stupid,” Rutherford said. “Law enforcement thinks (my) plaintiffs look like blondes, thus they are stupid. It is a despicable practice.”

Indiana University McKinney School of Law professor Joel Schumm isn’t surprised the law is being challenged. He described its as “very different than the hundreds of other crimes” spelled out in the Indiana criminal code.

“Most people can look at a law and know what conduct applies. They can read a law and know what they have to avoid to keep from breaking that law,” Schumm said. But under the lookalike law, he said, “it’s not clear what’s criminal or what’s not.”

Zoeller and Merritt are convinced the court will let it stand, giving the state some leeway to protect the public by closing what they call a “loophole” in the existing synthetic drug laws.

“In a way, I’m glad that someone is challenging the law,” Merritt said. “I think the court will rule our way, and if it does, that’ll have a ripple effect around the nation.”

Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers, the Tribune-Star’s parent company. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indiana

mediagroup.com.


 

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local & Bistate
  • MET072514 invenadamson step.jpg ‘Minds-on camp’

    Sylvia Ann Adamson longed for privacy, so she invented a solution to that problem at “Camp Invention.”

    July 25, 2014 5 Photos

  • Linda Tincher.jpg Riley lion’s roar goes global

    Linda L. Tincher has become the first woman from Indiana elected to serve as an international director for Lions Clubs International. She was chosen earlier this month during the clubs’ 97th international convention in Toronto, Canada.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • MET072514 SPPRAK glasses.jpg Kindness ‘undercover’

    Hundreds of people gathered at Bob Warn Field at Sycamore Stadium on Friday for a night of baseball, music, the “Green Man” and green shades.

    July 25, 2014 2 Photos

  • Residents ‘stuff the bus’ with pencils, notebooks, backpacks

    After exiting a Wal-Mart store in Clinton, Roger E. Richardson stopped his shopping cart Friday in front of a large yellow South Vermillion School Corporation bus.

    July 25, 2014

  • Man faces 9 charges in homicide case

    A Solsberry man faces nine criminal charges related to a July 18 homicide and rape in rural Greene County.

    July 25, 2014 1 Story

  • maroon truck.jpg UPDATE: Rockville man dies after head-on collision

    A Rockville man has died from injuries he sustained this afternoon in a two-vehicle, head-on crash on U.S. 41 north of Lyford.

    July 25, 2014 2 Photos

  • red truck.jpg Head-on crash leaves Rockville man seriously injured

    A Rockville man was air-lifted to an Indianapolis hospital with serious injuries this afternoon following a two-vehicle crash on U.S. 41 north of Lyford.

    July 25, 2014 2 Photos

  • Vigo County Jail Log: July 25, 2014

    The following individuals were booked into the Vigo County Jail by area law enforcement on Thursday and Friday, based on jail records.

    July 25, 2014

  • Measles case confirmed in Central Indiana

    INDIANAPOLIS — State health officials have confirmed a case of measles in Central Indiana. The Indiana State Department of Health is working with local health departments and health care providers to identify additional cases of measles, and to prevent further transmission of the disease.

    July 25, 2014

  • Fast food workers prepare to escalate wage demands

    CHICAGO (AP) — Fast food workers say they’re prepared to escalate their campaign for higher wages and union representation, starting with a national convention in suburban Chicago where more than 1,000 workers will discuss the future of the effort that has spread to dozens of cities in less than two years.

    July 25, 2014

  • 4 doctors arrested after Indiana clinic raids

    CARMEL, Ind. (AP) — Authorities say four doctors have been arrested on charges of improperly prescribing a drug used to treat painkiller addiction from several Indiana offices.

    July 25, 2014

  • holiday world thunderbird.jpg Holiday World plans new winged roller coaster

    SANTA CLAUS, Ind. (AP) — The Holiday World amusement park in southern Indiana is building a new $22 million roller coaster that it says will launch riders to 60 miles an hour in 3.5 seconds, with a 14-story loop and four inversions.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Indianapolis pulls future support for Amtrak line

    INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — City officials in Indianapolis have cast the future of an Amtrak passenger line between Indianapolis and Chicago into doubt after deciding not to provide any additional money to subsidize that line.

    July 25, 2014

  • Pence leading annual governor’s motorcycle ride

    INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Gov. Mike Pence is leading the annual governor’s motorcycle ride from the Statehouse through southern Indiana.

    July 25, 2014

  • State asks judge to delay right-to-work ruling

    CROWN POINT, Ind. (AP) — The Indiana attorney general’s office has asked a judge to put on hold his order striking down the state’s right-to-work law.

    July 25, 2014

  • MET 072414 HOESS 01KOR.jpg Voices from Auschwitz: Ties that bind

    A message that has spread like wildfire across Europe can easily translate to America.

    July 24, 2014 4 Photos 1 Story

  • Minimum wage frozen after 5 years

    Thursday marked the fifth anniversary since the federal minimum wage was increased, a wage U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez contends should again be raised.

    July 24, 2014

  • MET072414 CANDLES shake.jpg ISU, CANDLES join to ‘illuminate the world’

    Indiana State University and CANDLES Holocaust Museum are joining forces to educate current and future generations about the Holocaust, genocide and related issues.

    July 24, 2014 2 Photos 1 Story

  • MET072414 JA hadley.jpg 50 years later, still business as usual

    Junior Achievement of the Wabash Valley marked its 50th anniversary hosting a luau Thursday at the Ohio Building in Terre Haute.

    July 24, 2014 2 Photos

  • Two semis collide; one driver injured

    A semi-trailer driver from North Carolina was airlifted to Methodist Hospital Thursday after his vehicle collided with another tractor-trailer on Interstate 70 in far western Vigo County.

    July 24, 2014

  • Valley talent returns for show tonight

    Local musical collective Lunes Domingo is scheduled to be back at The Verve tonight to perform the last installment of its 2014 series.

    July 24, 2014

  • Police find 2 meth labs in 1 house

    The Clay County Sheriff’s Department on Thursday arrested a Staunton man and a Terre Haute woman on felony charges of manufacturing and possessing methamphetamine.

    July 24, 2014

  • Police say man broke into prison building

    A man living at a Carlisle motel has been arrested for trespassing and criminal mischief after he allegedly kicked in a prison building door.

    July 24, 2014

  • Driver airlifted to Methodist after I-70 crash

    A semi-trailer driver from North Carolina was airlifted to Methodist Hospital today after his vehicle collided with another tractor-trailer on Interstate 70 in far western Vigo County.

    July 24, 2014

  • Lunes Domingo, Bear Foote Jackson at The Verve July 25

    Local musical collective Lunes Domingo will be back at The Verve on Friday, July 25, to perform the last installment of their 2014 series. Cost is $3.

    July 24, 2014

  • West T Water Works issues boil order

    The West Terre Haute Water Works announced this morning that a boil order is in effect until further notice for the community of West Terre Haute and Sugar Creek Township.

    July 24, 2014

  • Grease fire closes Terre Haute restaurant for short time

    A grease fire closed the Golden Corral for about three hours on Wednesday.

    July 24, 2014

  • Vigo County Jail Log: July 24, 2014

    The following individuals were booked into the Vigo County Jail by area law enforcement on Thursday and Friday, based on jail records.

    July 24, 2014

  • Bloomington helping with beer brewery’s project

    BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — The city of Bloomington is helping a beer brewery with an expansion of its downtown restaurant and bar.

    July 24, 2014

  • Family: Teen pilot who crashed in ocean knew risks

    PLAINFIELD, Ind. (AP) — Haris Suleman knew that flying around the world carried risks. But like adventurers before him, the 17-year-old pilot from Indiana also believed dreams aren’t achieved without taking chances.

    July 24, 2014

Latest News
TribStar.com Poll
AP Video
Raw: Big Rig Stuck in Illinois Swamp Raw: Air Algerie Crash Site in Mali Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma Gaza Residents Mourn Dead Amid Airstrikes Raw: Iowa Police Dash Cam Shows Wild Chase Dempsey: Putin May Light Fire and Lose Control Raw: Deadly Tornado Hits Virginia Campground Ohio State Marching Band Chief Fired After Probe Kerry: No Deal Yet on 7-Day Gaza Truce Crashed Air Algerie Plane Found in Mali More M17 Bodies Return, Sanctions on Russia Grow Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids Police: Doctor Who Shot Gunman 'Saved Lives' Israel Mulls Ceasefire Amid Gaza Offensive Mobile App Gives Tour of Battle of Atlanta Sites In Case of Fire, Oxygen Masks for Pets Power to Be Restored After Wash. Wildfire Israeli American Reservist Torn Over Return Virginia Governor Tours Tornado Aftermath
NDN Video
Big Weekend For Atlanta Braves In Cooperstown - @TheBuzzeronFox Chapter Two: Becoming a first-time director What's Got Jack Black Freaking Out at Comic-Con? Doctors Remove 232 Teeth From Teen's Mouth Bradley Cooper Explains His Voice in 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Deja vu: Another NYPD officer choke-holding a suspect 'Fifty Shades of Grey': Watch the Super Sexy First Trailer Now! Reports: Ravens RB Ray Rice Suspended For 1st 2 Games Of The Season Air Algerie plane with 119 on board missing over Mali Diamond Stone, Malik Newman, Josh Jackson and others showcase talent Free Arturo - The World's Saddest Polar Bear A Look Back at Batman On Film Through The Years LeBron James -- Dropped $2k On Cupcake Apology ... Proceeds To Benefit Charity Snoop Dogg Says He Smoked Weed at the White House Raw: Fight Breaks Out in Ukraine Parliament Chris Pratt Interrupts Interview To French Braid Intern's Hair Shirtless Super Mario Balotelli Dances While Ironing - @TheBuzzeronFOX Whoa! Watch "Housewives" Star Do the Unthinkable LeBron apologizes to neighbors with cupcakes Justin Bieber In Calvin Klein Underwear Shoot
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -

     

    March 12, 2010

activity