For the second time this year the Iowa House has voted to establish more significant penalties for the use, distribution or sale of “synthetic” drugs than senators seem willing to accept. The drugs, marketed under names like K-2 and Spice, have been sold as incense and bath salts.
Representative Tom Sands, a Republican from Wapello, says these are dangerous drugs that require serious penalties for those who use and sell them. “They are sometimes referred to as synthetic marijuana, which is very unfortunate because people believe that it’s more similar to marijuana, however it is not,” Sands says. “It is really more like cocaine and other illegal drugs, causing seizures and hallucinations, even killing some people.”
But some senators have raised concerns about making it a felony to use or sell these synthetic drugs, and the senate has voted instead for making the crime a serious misdemeanor. Sands admits there’s still an impasse between the House and Senate. “We believed that we had an agreement with the senate,” Sands says.
“There is one member in the senate that doesn’t remember making this agreement, so we’re still working on that.” Representative Mary Mascher, a Democrat from Iowa City, warns senators may never accept the tougher penalties, dooming this year’s attempt to make the distribution, sale or use of this class of synthetic drugs illegal.
“I don’t want the bill to die,” Mascher says. “…Then we don’t have anything and I guess I want something.” Senator Gene Fraise, a Democrat from Fort Madison, says he worries the longer sentences will add to overcrowding in the state’s prisons.
“We put more people in prison every time we pass one of these bills, and then we burn up our resources which ought to be going for education and all those kinds of things,” Fraise says, “so that’s my biggest reason not to send more people to prison.” Fraise expects the impasse to be settled, eventually.