DPS crime lab an integral part of synthetic drug ban - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

DPS crime lab an integral part of synthetic drug ban

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PHOENIX -

Spice -- bath salts – synthetic drugs that are causing big problems here in Arizona. Remember the naked carjacker last year who was caught running around in a Scottsdale intersection? The episode was blamed on bath salts.

Last week, Governor Jan Brewer signed a new law making it tougher on the people who make the drugs. Now, we're giving you a rare look inside a crime lab where investigators are trying to stay one step ahead of the drug makers.

"Folks were showing up in emergency rooms, some had died from using these types of drugs."

It was so tough to outlaw all of the variations of bath salts and spice being sold at stores that some were calling this a legal high.

The DPS crime lab along with others worked for months to make sure this stuff was made illegal.

Known to send people over the edge into bizarre dangerous behavior, spice and bath salts have long been a target of law enforcement. But it was a slippery target, a moving target, like a runaway train.

"Think of a train, the last car on the train, if you take that car off and put a different type of car on, that's a whole new drug. That's what the manufacturers were doing," says Vince Figarelli, Superintendent of the DPS lab system.

The daunting challenge for law enforcement, including the DPS crime lab -- to somehow ID and categorize the chemicals in bath salts and spice so they could all be made illegal, despite variations.

They did it. It took months, but they defined six classes of drugs, also known as backbones.

"We put those backbone drugs in the statute so now if you make little tweaks to the drugs and change little chemicals to it, it's still controlled. So we have basically have covered all the spice and bath salt drugs," says Todd Griffith, DPS consultant.

When the Governor signed HB 2337 into law earlier this month, what was previously legal to sell and use became a felony to do both or either.

"What's most rewarding for me is these things should go away, the retailers need to understand they can't sell this stuff anymore."

The governor signed the law on April 3rd, making it illegal to use possess, sell or drive under the influence of synthetic drugs.

That stuff should no longer be for sale over the counter anywhere in the state -- it's a felony.

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