New Player in the Street Drug Portfolio Draws Attention
from ISP Law Enforcement and Forensic Experts
Springfield – Illinois State Police joined local, state and federal officials today in an Emergency Summit on K-2 Spice, Bath Salts, and other synthetic compounds.
The Summit was convened by the Illinois Attorney General’s Office at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Springfield, and included law enforcement officials from the DEA, Illinois State Police, local police departments, community organizations, healthcare professionals, and family members who have lost loved ones to the deadly compound.
The Summit was organized to call attention to the deadly dangers of synthetic compound drugs and their constant transformation. Governor Pat Quinn signed a law effective January, 2011, that makes it a criminal offense to possess certain synthetic cannabinoids. The minimum penalty for a Class 4 felony includes prison time and fines up to $25,000. More synthetic cannabinoids are being added to the original list of controlled substances, effective January 1, 2012. Illinois is the 17th state to outlaw the drugs. The possession and sale of the drugs could result in a class 1 felony offense.
The deadly substance K2/K4 is known under names such as Spice, Blaze, Red X Dawn, Spice Gold, Moon Rocks, Zombie World and Blaze, and mimics the effects of marijuana. State and federal law enforcement and crime investigative labs have acknowledged the challenges faced in dedicating the analytical and personnel resources to analyze the chemical content of this unpredictable substance.
These drugs are labeled as “Bath Salts,” “Incense,” or “Potpourri,” but are marketed and intended for human ingestion. There are no pharmaceutical controls for the manufacture of these substances.
Since 2010, the Illinois State Police Division of Forensic Services has been researching information about the synthetic cannabinoids and bath salts, and has seen an increase in the suspected synthetic cannabinoid cases. Over 100 compounds have yet to be identified under the DEA ban with new variations or analogs being manufactured and marketed creating a huge challenge for forensic scientists and law enforcement agencies across the country.
”Our challenge is to develop the adequate comparison standards so that our scientists can analyze the compounds being found in cases to determine if they contain an illegal substance. We currently have the ability to identify some of the analogs, but we must continue to work with the scientific communities on a state and national level to identify new analogs as they are being created,” said ISP Colonel Scott Giles, who heads the Agency’s Forensic Services Division.
There are also challenges on the enforcement side. Over the last two years, the ISP Division of Operations has disseminated dozens of law enforcement notices and intelligence bulletins concerning synthetic cannabinoid. These notices and bulletins address access, availability, use, side effects and scientific data, and have been distributed to law enforcement and health service provider agencies statewide. The ISP also disseminates statutory amendments to the legislative communities concerning these synthetic substances, as well as intelligence information received from the law enforcement and scientific communities.
“Operationally, enforcement has been a challenge because these synthetic substances are pervasive throughout the state and not limited to socioeconomic, urban or rural geography. Its devastation has no boundaries and our investigators and officers are constantly monitoring the fluid nature of the new variations or analogs of these synthetic substances to identify illegal use,” said ISP Division of Operations Colonel Mark Piccoli.
In addition to intelligence and information sharing, ISP officials have participated in training for officers through statewide drug task force associations. The Division of Operations coordinates the Agency’s 22 multi-agency Drug Task Forces and Metropolitan Enforcement Groups (MEGs) in information sharing and discussions concerning the availability and use of these substances throughout various areas of the state. These groups also share information on enforcement obstacles and collaborate on investigative strategies.
Illinois State Police Director Hiram Grau applauded ISP’s involvement and the efforts of the Emergency Summit. He pointed to the challenges law enforcement officials, local area businesses, crime labs, healthcare professionals and families across the country face with these new designer drugs.
“We need to continuously raise the awareness and educate law enforcement officers, prosecutors, communities and the public on the expanding list of chemical variations of these synthetic cannabinoids and the fatal harm it causes in every community,” he said.