Once available over the counter, synthetic and designer drugs are illegal across New Jersey. Today, a black market has developed and recent arrests suggest a rising tide for the manmade intoxicants.
Synthetic drugs are chemical compositions, created for recreation use. K2 and other synthetic marijuana products are typically a mixture of herbs laced with chemical cannabinoids. They share few characteristics with marijuana itself and are dangerously inconsistent in dosage, warns the New Jersey Poison Center. Because it comes in a package, many mistakenly deem it to be safe, despite it's being illegal in the state.
An ongoing problem
New Jersey Poison Center reports that calls tripled from 2014 into 2015 for the synthetic drugs, trending upward after a brief respite. This fall a Carteret man was arrested with 9 pounds of synthetics imported from China.
Designer drugs take all forms, not just marijuana. Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. In the height of a heroin epidemic, the increased availability of such drugs creates a true threat to the public health.
New Jersey law
Just because a drug is synthetic does not reduce its penalty. As with controlled substances like marijuana and heroin, punishment is based on the amount in possession. Larger amounts often include intent to sell charges. Less than one ounce of synthetic marijuana brings a fourth degree charge, with anything higher being third degree. Punishment for the former can include jail for up to 18 months, with the latter ranging between three to five years.
Criminal defense and Drug Court
To be found guilty of possession, any synthetic drugs must be found on your person through a legal search and seizure and be proven to belong to you. A criminal defense attorney can review police procedure to ensure that rights were not violated and that the substance seized was, in fact, a synthetic drug and not something else.
New Jersey Drug Courts are an alternative court that focuses on substance abuse treatment instead of incarceration. The growing program emphasizes rehabilitation instead of serving time and may be an option depending on a subject's criminal history and substance abuse pattern.
The country's attitude toward drugs is changing, shown by the votes in Maine and Massachusetts that will legalize recreation use of marijuana. However, local laws apply for different substances. Synthetic drugs may come in a package or a pill, but that is not a stamp of safety or legality.