Expansion of synthetic drug ban advanced

Additional variations of a synthetic drug would be banned under a bill advanced to select file March 25.

Introduced by Ogallala Sen. Ken Schilz, LB811 would amend one class of currently banned substances under the Uniform Controlled Substances Act and would add another class of synthetic cannabinoids to the list of banned substances. The bill would revise the act to apply to substantially similar imitations of prohibited controlled substances that may be developed in the future.

As introduced, the bill would have increased the penalty for manufacturing, distributing or delivering an imitation controlled substance to a Class I misdemeanor or a Class IV felony for subsequent offenses.

A Judiciary Committee amendment, adopted 27-0, retained the existing penalties. Under the amendment, first-time offenders would be guilty of a Class III misdemeanor punishable by up to three months imprisonment, a $500 fine or both. A subsequent offense would be a Class II misdemeanor punishable by up to six months imprisonment, a $1,000 fine or both.

Schilz said manufacturers of synthetic cannabinoids evade current law by changing the chemical composition of their products to create versions unaffected by the ban. This results in substances that are more dangerous than the original drug the products are made to mimic, he said.

“Nebraska’s children are obtaining the new versions of these synthetic cannabinoids and in some instances, dying because of the chemical makeup,” Schilz said.

Omaha Sen. Steve Lathrop said LB811 goes a step further than outlawing the latest version of synthetic narcotics by including language that essentially would ban future versions of the compounds.

“Senator Schilz has done something that I think is very creative, which is to try to generally describe what we’re trying to outlaw so that you can’t come up with a variation in the chemical compound and get away with it again,” Lathrop said.

Senators advanced the bill on a 33-0 vote.

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