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Friday, July 19, 2024 | Back issues
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Justices to Assess Drug Charges Over Bath Salts

(CN) - A convicted bath salts dealer persuaded the Supreme Court to decide whether the government proved that his products qualify as controlled substances under drug laws.

The case stems from a 2011 police investigation in Charlottesville, Va., into the production and distribution of the synthetic stimulants nicknamed as bath salts.

After a police raid yielded two different compounds of bath salts for sale at a local video store owned by Lois McDaniel,

The owner of a video-rental store caught selling the bath salts identified Stephen McFadden as the supplier.

Forensic analysis of the products identified their chemical composition as part methylone and methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV). Additional bath salts seized at the store contained these two ingredients plus 4-methylethylcathinone (4-MEC).

A jury ultimately found McFadden guilty of each of the nine drug-distribution-related charges against him, and the court handed down a 33-month sentence.

Among the issues McFadden asserted on appeal, he claimed ignorance that federal law prohibited the distribution of controlled substance analogues.

Though McFadden claimed that the Controlled Substance Analogue Enforcement Act of 1986 was unconstitutionally vague as applied to him, the 4th Circuit affirmed in May 2014.

"Given the creativity of individuals manufacturing these analogue substances ... there is genuine potential that the creation of such substances could outpace any efforts by authorities to identify and catalog them," Judge Barbara Keenan wrote for a three-judge panel in Richmond, Va.

As such the court cannot impose a constitutional notice requirement that the act contain a list of prohibited substances, according to the ruling.

The decision notes that so-called bath salts produce "similar effects as certain controlled substances, including cocaine, methamphetamine, and methcathinone."

Indeed, police obtained recordings of McFadden's telephone conversations in which he "discussed the potency and duration of the 'high' experienced by users of the substances he was distributing," according to the ruling.

"He also compared the effects of those substances to certain controlled substances, including cocaine and methamphetamine," Keenan added.

"The fact that McFadden intended that the substances he was distributing be used as alternatives to controlled substances further demonstrates that a reasonable person in his position would understand that his conduct was prohibited by the act," the decision also states.

Per its custom, the Supreme Court did not issue any comment in agreeing Friday to take up McFadden's case.

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