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Synthetic and Designer Drug Crimes in Pennsylvania


Synthetic Drugs

With the rise in the use, abuse, and distribution of synthetic drugs, our legislature has expanded Pennsylvania Drug Laws to criminalize and make illegal the possession, manufacturing, and delivery of drugs like synthetic cannabinoids (a.k.a.-synthetic marijuana) and bath salts.

However, chemists developing synthetic drugs have continued to create variations in the chemical compounds used to make them.  Consequently, it has been difficult for lawmakers to keep up and add each drug variation to the list of controlled substances (reflects addition of "synthetic cannabinoids" and "bath salts") making them illegal.  35 Pa.C.S. 780-104.

In an effort to keep pace, lawmakers have created a "catch-all" category:  Designer Drugs.

Designer Drugs

A "Designer Drug" is:

  1. a substance other than a "controlled substance";
  2. intended for human consumption; and, 
  3. with a chemical structure substantially similar to a controlled substance or producing a substantially similar effect. 35 Pa.C.S. 780-102.

Ultimately, a "designer drug" is any drug that is not technically a banned substance but similar to an illegal drug and people use it to get high.

Manufacturing Designer Drugs

Section 780-113(a)(36) of the Controlled Substance, Drug, Device, and Cosmetic Act makes it illegal to manufacture, possess, distribute, or possess with the intent to distribute a designer drug.  35 Pa.C.S. 780-113(a)(36).  

For a time, convenience stores, gas stations, and specialty "head shops" sold synthetic drugs.  However, once these substances were banned, drug enforcement cracked down on these stores limiting access.

In response, some people have begun manufacturing their own "synthetic marijuana"  by separately purchasing the various components off the internet.  Where the chemical compounds are non-controlled substances under Pennsylvania law, police will file charges under the relevant "designer drug" section.

Designer Drug Penalties

Whether a person manufactures a designer drug for personal use or distribution or simply found in possession of it, the penalty is the same upon conviction.  It is Felony drug crime with a maximum penalty of up to 15 years in prison and fine of $250,000.00.


About the Author:

Harrisburg Drug Defense Attorney Shawn M. Curry is an experienced professional committed to helping people accused of drug crimes throughout Central Pennsylvania.  

Shawn Curry Law is a solo law practice exclusively limited to criminal defense.  This allows him to focus on criminal law all day, everyday while providing personal service to each person he helps.

If you or someone you care about has been accused of a crime, contact Shawn Curry for help.

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