The U.S. Supreme Court has granted a petition for certiorari for a case, meaning they will hear it, involving a question of whether the Controlled Substances Analogue Enforcement Act can be construed to secure a conviction for what are often called “synthetic drugs” or “designer drugs” if there is a question of whether the defendant knew the substance involved was substantially similar.
The case, McFadden v. United States, has been set for oral argument on April 21. The case involves the sale of so-called “bath salts” from a video store in Virginia. The defendant in the case is alleged to have provided the substances to the store, who sold them. The particular bath salts had chemical compounds that are intended to mimic the physiological effects of ingesting cocaine.
The federal government argued that the Analogue Act, passed in 1986 to address chemicals “substantially similar” to Schedule I and II substances, covered the substances the defendant was alleged to have sold. They argued they must only prove that McFadden knew the substances were for human consumption, an element of the crime under the law.
However, McFadden argued that the federal government should have needed to prove that he knew that the substances were substantially similar to controlled substances, or at least that he deliberately avoided knowledge that they were.
He was convicted, and appealed. The Fourth Circuit upheld the appeal.
The case involves just federal law, but has implications for state law, as well. Many states have struggled to stay on top of synthetic drugs. A synthetic drug, as generally defined, is one that is synthesized with the intent of creating effects on the same physiological effects of a substance that has been deemed controlled. For instance, “K-2” and “Spice” are intended to imitate marijuana, while “bath salts” are often intended to imitate cocaine or methamphetamine.
States have attempted to ban the compounds in the synthetic drugs. However, new synthetics with different chemical makeups are regularly developed. As soon as regulations are put into effect to outlaw a specific substance, developers put out a new one.
Nevada has not yet passed a ban on synthetic drugs, although the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department has cooperated with federal officials, like the Drug Enforcement Agency in 2012 in “Operation Logjam.” A ruling favorable to the government might encourage Nevada legislators to go forward with one. Synthetic drugs have gained significant negative attention due to their often unpredictable effects on the body.
If arrested for drug charges in Las Vegas, synthetic or not, it’s important to contact a drug defense lawyer who will protect your rights and fight for the best possible result.