People who want to get legally high and who think alcohol (or in certain states, marijuana) is just too old fashioned and boring, have entered a sort of cat-and-mouse game with state legislatures.
As soon as those august lawmaking bodies pass restrictions against some new mind-bending substance, people who make those substances just change the chemicals up a bit.
The problem is, they often make a dangerous substance even worse.
Read this Deseret News story to get an idea of what’s happening. Several years ago, young people in Utah and elsewhere started getting high with substances called “spice” or with bath salts or, believe it or not, good old-fashioned nutmeg, which can be smoked or consumed, as the experts say, to excess.
The Utah Legislature, for instance, outlawed some of these substances a few years ago. Until that time, police would find people acting strangely or in ways that posed a danger to themselves and others, but there was nothing they could do. According to this National Conference of State Legislatures story from late last year, 45 states and Puerto Rico have banned at least some of these substances.
Even in Washington state and Colorado, both of which recently legalized marijuana for recreational use, you can’t get high on spice.
But not long ago news stories started to appear about chemical changes that were allowing people to remain just beyond the long fingertips of the law. Candy weed, or marijuana brownies made with a synthetic form of THC and mixed with corn syrup, is one of the latest trends.
Emergency rooms and poison control centers are reporting a surge in calls from people suffering ill-effects. Synthetic marijuana, methamphetamine and even LSD are being concocted somewhere and distributed in parts of the United States.
And, as a special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration told the Deseret News, “It’s killing people. It’s destroying people’s minds.”
It’s also destroying all those myths that simply legalizing drugs like marijuana will sap the strength of cartels and gangs. There apparently is no end to the expanding list of mind-altering substances, each with the allure of either gaming law enforcement or providing a high that’s not available over the counter.
And each is guaranteed to provide a nice profit to some seller.
Lawmakers have little choice but to draft some kind of catchall law that might end up being too broad, or to empower health officials to keep a step ahead of the changes, as some states have done.
The alternative is to simply legalize everything and to sacrifice unsuspecting and immature minds on the altar of permissiveness. That would not be my choice.