Casey Calls on Senate Judiciary Committee to Investigate Measures to Close Loopholes In Synthetic Drugs Ban

Casey: Drugs Like Cloud Nine Are Hurting Kids, Families- Congress Must Step Up to Close Loopholes

Hospitals in NEPA Reporting ‘Alarming Rise’ in New Drug- Cloud Nine

Drug Makers Making Technical Changes in Ingredients to Avoid Federal, State Bans; Casey Calls for Swift Action By Judiciary Committee

Washington DC- Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) called on the Senate Judiciary Committee to work with him to move legislation that would close loopholes in existing law that allow the makers of designer drugs to slightly change their ingredients and avoid federal and state bans.

Drug makers’ latest attempt to avoid bans on bath salt-like synthetic drugs has come in the form of a new drug called Cloud Nine- a variant of insect repellant that has the same effects as bath salts. In his letter to the Judiciary Committee, Casey called for the committee to work with him to move legislation that would close loopholes allowing drug makers to slightly alter their products  and avoid bans on designer drugs.

“Drug makers will stop at nothing to flood the market with new synthetic drugs, it’s time for the Senate to close loopholes that allow them to avoid federal and state bans,” Casey said. “The alarming prevalence of Cloud Nine in Northeastern Pennsylvania should be call to action for the Senate to get moving on legislation that will shut down these loopholes for good and keep our kids and families safe.”

 In recent days, hospitals in Northeastern Pennsylvania have reported an alarming increase in the number of patients arriving under the influence of a newly emerging drug called “Cloud Nine,” marketed as insect repellent.  Because the product has side effects and symptoms comparable to so-called “bath salts,” law enforcement officials justifiably worry about another outbreak of violent and dangerous synthetic drug use following the havoc these substances caused in 2011. Drug makers are able to get away with selling these new designer drugs because federal  and state laws do not prevent drug makers from slightly altering the drug’s composition and selling it as a new, legal product.

In his letter Casey wrote, “…Meanwhile, despite recent progress on this issue by many states and an emergency ban by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), it has become apparent that the makers of synthetic drugs will stop at nothing, and are already designing new chemical variations of these drugs to circumvent both state and federal bans once more.”

The full text of Casey’s letter can be seen below:

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy,

I write regarding the continuing problem posed by synthetic drugs, manufactured to mimic dangerous drugs like cocaine and heroin yet designed to circumvent the laws that make those drugs illegal.  First, thank you for your leadership in advancing legislation to address synthetic drugs, which I have urged Senate Leadership to bring up and pass as soon as possible. 

Meanwhile, despite recent progress on this issue by many states and an emergency ban by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), it has become apparent that the makers of synthetic drugs will stop at nothing, and are already designing new chemical variations of these drugs to circumvent both state and federal bans once more.  I respectfully request that you investigate potential legislative solutions to update federal drug control law in response to the ongoing dangers posed by synthetic drugs and their analogues.

According to DEA testimony given at an April 6, 2011 Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control hearing, manufacturers of synthetic drugs have been savvy about circumventing the law.  DEA Deputy Assistant Administrator Joseph T. Rannazzisi testified that the use of pseudonyms for synthetic drugs like “bath salts”, “plant food,” and “insect repellent,” were intended to avoid prosecution, as the packaging stipulated that the drugs were not for human consumption.  Importantly, Mr. Rannazzisi also spoke to the challenge of legislative and regulatory efforts to target synthetic drugs, stating in his written testimony that “there are a number of other stimulants that could easily be substituted into new ‘bath salt’ products should mephedrone and MDPV be [banned].” 

The Controlled Substances Act, however, requires extensive study of any new substance by DEA before it can be scheduled, and the Controlled Substance Analogue Enforcement Act limits the ability of controlled substance analogues to be treated as controlled substances when they are not intended for human consumption.  These loopholes mean manufactures can continually adjust the chemical structure of banned substances, allowing them to stay one step ahead of both lawmakers and law enforcement. 

Unfortunately, we are now seeing this phenomenon unfold in my home state of Pennsylvania, which despite proactively passing legislation last year continues to struggle with synthetic drug abuse.  In recent days, hospitals in Northeastern Pennsylvania have reported an alarming increase in the number of patients arriving under the influence of a newly emerging drug called “Cloud Nine,” marketed as insect repellent.  Because the product has side effects and symptoms comparable to so-called “bath salts,” law enforcement officials justifiably worry about another outbreak of violent and dangerous synthetic drug use following the havoc these substances caused in 2011. 

I look forward to working with the Committee to address this serious issue.  The intent of the ban on dangerous synthetic drugs must be enforced in order to avoid further hardship for Pennsylvania communities.  

Sincerely,

Robert P. Casey, Jr.

United States Senator


Cc:

Senator Dianne Feinstein

Chair, Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control

Senator Charles Grassley,

Ranking Member, Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control

Drug Enforcement Administration