Are Synthetic Drugs Illegal in Illinois?

Synthetic drugs are chemically laced substances manufactured to mimic the effects of illegal drugs like marijuana and methamphetamines.  Common names for these synthetics drugs are “spice,” “K2,” and “bath salts.”  Since these are not substances historically considered drugs, they have not been controlled or banned until recent years and could be found in gas stations, convenience stores, and specialty stores.  Careful advertising has also been used to circumvent laws by claiming the products are not for human consumption, but it is common knowledge as to which products should be smoked like marijuana or inhaled like cocaine or meth.

Although it is unclear what the health effects of these substances are, there have been thousands of reports to Poison Control Centers for adverse side effects and other reports of abuse and addiction.  Some claim that deaths and other serious health risks are associated with their use.  The Attorney General of Illinois claims that one reason these substances are so dangerous is because there are numerous unknown chemicals being ingested that are not controlled, disclosed, or tested as to safety.

Given the increased use of these novel products and the increased fear as to their dangers, the Illinois Legislature has taken certain actions to control these products.  First, the Illinois Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act was amended to ban synthetic drugs and make it illegal to possess and distribute those mislabeled as “not for human consumption.”  Next, the Legislature amended the Illinois Controlled Substances Act to include the ingredients found in products like K2 and Spice (synthetic marijuana).

Local, State, and Federal Law

State law today makes it a felony offense to buy, sell, or possess synthetic drugs in Illinois.  Violating the Controlled Substances Act is a Class 4 felony and carries a penalty of between 1-3 years in prison and fines of up to $25,000.  Under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, retailers who sell synthetic drugs, defined as any chemical compounds listed in the Controlled Substances Act may be charged with a Class 3 felony punishable by 3-7 years in prison and fines of up to $100,000.

Local Ordinances are in effect as well, such as Sections 4-4-333 and 4-4-334 of the Municipal Code of Chicago that bans the selling of certain synthetic drugs and carries a penalty of between $2000-$5000 in fines every day the business is in violation of the Ordinance.

Federal law is even harsher; classifying listed synthetic drug compounds as Schedule I Controlled Substances.  Selling these products could result in up to 20 years in federal prison and up to $1 million in fines.  If the product sold caused a death, the seller could face life in prison.

Currently, law enforcement has authority under these laws to engage in raids on retailers selling synthetic drugs and can arrest individual users as well.  Manufacturers are still able to produce synthetic drugs that may be considered “legal” by developing new chemical compounds not contemplated by the laws.

With so many overlapping laws concerning synthetic drugs, whether you are an individual or a retailer, your best defense will come from a qualified Illinois Criminal Defense Attorney if you are accused of violating any of these laws.

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