Legal Blog

Understanding Indiana’s Synthetic Drug Laws & Penalties

14 November 2022 | Criminal Defense,  Drug Charges,  Legal Blog,  

Attorney Sean Hessler

Written by
Sean Hessler

14 November 2022

Criminal Defense,  Drug Charges,  Legal Blog,  

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Synthetic drugs, like spice and bath salts, are artificial substances that can replicate the effects of marijuana or cocaine. But they can be more toxic and dangerous than the real thing, resulting in severe injuries or death.

Previously, Indiana’s synthetic (or analog) drug offenses were classified as infractions or Class B misdemeanors. However, in 2019 as they increased in potency and abuse across the state, House Bill 1186 made sure that crimes involving synthetic drugs were prosecuted as Schedule 1 drugs.

Types of Synthetic Drugs

According to the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADA), synthetic drugs fall into two categories:

Synthetic Cannabinoids (Synthetic Cannabis)

Like the popular delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) substances, where the active ingredient in cannabis, some other artificial cannabis products are mixed with chemical solvents. They are generally smoked or sometimes ingested as tea. While the synthetic cannabinoids were originally from Australia, many were eventually made illegal in the United States.

Synthetic Stimulants

Bath salts are the most common form of synthetic stimulant. Most contain chemical compounds that mimic the effects of cocaine, LSD, and methamphetamine. Similar drugs include MDMA, sometimes called “ecstasy” or “molly.” Synthetic stimulants were placed under the same laws when they became more widely known.

Do Synthetic Drugs Have Criminal Penalties?

According to Indiana law, you can be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor for synthetic drugs. This means you could face the same penalties as with “real” or traditional narcotics.

Driving Under the Influence of Synthetic Drugs

An OWI involving synthetic drugs could result in fines, loss of driving privileges, court costs, and jail. Charges may increase if you cause an accident that results in injury or death.

Distributing/Selling Synthetic Drugs

Like traditional drugs, selling a synthetic could include fines, court costs, and prison, based on the circumstances.

Synthetic Drug Also Have Adverse Health Effects

Despite having similar effects to certain street drugs, synthetic drugs can cause serious health problems, including:

  • severe agitation and anxiety
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • tachycardia (fast, racing heartbeat)
  • elevated blood pressure
  • tremors and seizures
  • hallucinations
  • dilated pupils
  • suicidal and other harmful thoughts or actions

What about hemp & synthetic marijuana?

While synthetic and traditional drugs remain illegal in Indiana, lawmakers have discussed the potential for the decriminalization and regulation of THC and hemp products. This has been pushed as more people look at THC’s possible benefits.

However, synthetic substances have not gained the same momentum, especially since a beneficial link has not been established, like with marijuana.

Synthetic Drugs & Synthetic Opioids Are Different

Many people see a similarity between synthetic drugs and synthetic opioids, like fentanyl. But there are significant differences.

  • Pharmaceutical fentanyl was developed in the 1960s as a substitute for opium-based painkillers
  • Synthetic drugs were primarily developed for their psychoactive or psychedelic effects.

While some pharmaceutical drugs like fentanyl are manufactured in a lab and are technically “synthetic,” there is some medical value in these drugs. However, fentanyl is much more potent than traditional opium, morphine, or heroin. Users face a higher chance of addiction and overdose death.

Despite their difference, the sharp increase in fentanyl addictions and overdoses is one of the main reasons lawmakers and law enforcement agencies pushed for a stricter stance on all synthetic drugs in Indiana. However, the correlation between harsher penalties for synthetic substances and reduced fentanyl use remains to be seen.

How an Indiana Drug Defense Lawyer Can Help

At Hessler Law, our criminal defense lawyers have significant experience defending people charged with Indiana drug offenses, including synthetic drug offenses. We know how the law works and how to build a solid defense for your charge.

Call us today at (317) 886-8800 or contact us online to schedule a consultation and learn about your defense options.