Ohio rule bans certain synthetic drug chemicals

Mike Dewine is cracking down on synthetic drugs in Ohio.
(AP Photo/Al Behrman, File)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – Two chemicals being abused as synthetic drugs are now illegal under a state rule change that went into effect Thursday.

The rule bans the sale and use of the chemical compounds known as PB-22 and 5F-PB-22, along with variations that have the same basic chemical structure. State officials hope to target drug dealers who seek to skirt the law by tweaking the compounds to make them legal.

The chemicals are often sprayed on plant material to mimic the effect of marijuana. Synthetic drugs can have effects similar to, but longer-lasting than, amphetamines. Users can experience paranoia, erratic behavior, lethargy and slurred speech, among other symptoms. The drugs are typically sold in head shops and marketed as herbal incense products.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration temporarily classified the compounds as illegal in February, but the state ban is permanent.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and State Pharmacy Board Executive Director Kyle Parker announced the rule Thursday, which classifies the two chemical compounds as controlled substances illegal under Ohio law.

“These substances pose a serious threat to public safety and have no medicinal value,” Parker wrote in a statement.

Authorities say the compounds appeared after a 2012 law went into effect banning all synthetic drugs that existed at the time.

The rule took a year to put in place and comes as the state works to combat drug abuse.

Overdose drug deaths have been the leading cause of accidental death in Ohio since 2007, surpassing car crashes. Many of those deaths are from painkillers and heroin.

DeWine wants the authority to ban synthetic drugs without having to ask for legislation each time a new substance begins routinely arriving at the state’s crime lab. He said in a written statement that the standard process takes “far too long.”

His office said it is working on a bill that would give the attorney general the power to temporarily ban any compound believed to be an imminent hazard to public safety. The bans would last for at least a year while administrative rules or legislation could proceed to determine whether the compounds should be permanently outlawed.

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