Lawmakers take aim at designer drugs

Posted July 14, 2015

NC Flag, Legislative Building, Raleigh

— State lawmakers are one step away from making NBOMe, often sold as synthetic LSD, and two other designer drugs illegal in North Carolina.

House Bill 341would add 12 known variants of NBOMe, a synthesized hallucinogen, to the state's Schedule I list. It would also add to the list methoxetamine, a synthetic form of ketamine often marketed as Special K, and acetyl fentanyl, a synthetic form of the opioid fentanyl that's much stronger than heroin.

Variants of methylphenidate, better known as Ritalin, also would be added to the controlled substances list, as well as the most recent versions of synthetic cannabinoids.

Of all those drugs, NBOMe is the one law enforcement agencies are most concerned about, said bill sponsor Rep. Darren Jackson, D-Wake.

"NBOMe is a synthetic form of LSD that is currently being marketed by a lot of companies – overseas companies – as 'legal LSD,'" Jackson told the Senate Judiciary II Committee on Tuesday morning.

Jackson said NBOMe caused the death of Apex teenager Thomas Castaneda in 2012. He said that, when authorities sought to charge the person who gave the teen the drug, "There was really nothing they could do to prosecute him other than give him some kind of misdemeanor and probation because it wasn't on the controlled substances list."

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration took action two years ago to add NBOMe to the federal list. State Crime Lab director John Byrd said House Bill 341 would bring the state law into line with the federal statute.

Byrd told WRAL News that the compound is actually much more dangerous than LSD because it's much more concentrated. He said law enforcement officers at contaminated crime scenes had been sickened by absorbing just a trace of the drug through their skin.

That potency also makes overdoses much more likely among recreational drug users who mistake NBOMe for LSD, he said.

"They have no idea of the concentration," he said. "It's stronger – and lethal in more cases."

Jackson said updating the state's controlled substances list is becoming a yearly event because recreational drug designers can make small changes to illegal substances to make them "legal" again.

Sen Stan Bingham, R-Davidson, recalled similar legislation on synthetic drugs several years ago.

"We thought we had every chemical available anywhere," Bingham said, shaking his head. "We thought we had it broad enough to cover everything."

The bill passed the House at the end of April but has been sitting in a Senate committee for the past two months. Its next stop is the Senate floor. If it passes unamended, it will go to Gov. Pat McCrory for his signature. That's likely to happen by the end of the week.


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