Vanderburgh County Prosecutor Nick Hermann joined Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller today to help launch a statewide initiative aimed at getting synthetic drugs like “bath salts” and “spice” off retailers’ shelves. According to a new state law, retail merchants – like smoke shops and convenience stores – caught selling the drugs will face penalties including the loss of their retail merchant certificate of business for one year.

“This synthetic drug enforcement initiative is intended to send a strong message to businesses who continue to sell synthetic drugs despite the law and the risks to the public,” Zoeller said. “Law enforcement and health officials agree that the danger of having these drugs in the open marketplace and available to the public is significant. It is our responsibility to use the resources available to prevent these unregulated and illegal drugs from being available on the shelves at the corner store.”

The Indiana Attorney General’s Office, Indiana State Police, Indiana State Department of Health, Indiana Department of Revenue, Indiana Board of Pharmacy and Indiana Sheriffs Association partnered on the to issue a legal notice to all Indiana retailers.

Zoeller said this statewide notice details the penalties and consequences for legal violations in relation to synthetic drug production and distribution. The document also emphasizes that retailers’ reliance on packaging representations, supplier representations and lab reports are done at their own risk.

“These products have no legitimate use.” Prosecutor Hermann said, “They are being sold over the counter for human consumption without any regulation or oversight. Their effects are unpredictable and dangerous. By partnering with Attorney General Zoeller and his office, we are sending the message that our community will not tolerate the distribution of these drugs. Through our combined efforts, we will be pursuing all available remedies to halt the sale of these products.”

Synthetic drugs are made to mirror the highs associated with marijuana or cocaine, but sold openly under the guise of “plant food,” “bath salts,” “potpourri,” “incense” or “spice.” While the packaging is labeled not for human consumption the products are often taken orally, inhaled or injected. These drugs can cause dangerously high body temperatures, racing heart rates, high blood pressure, and permanent organ damage, and the psychotic effect of these substances can last for several days.

The Attorney General’s Office is also asking retailers to sign a “Synthetic Drug Community Protection Agreement” to stop selling the illegal products and relinquish related inventory to the Drug Enforcement Administration. If the agreement is violated, the document will be used to establish the owner’s knowledge of and intent to violate applicable Indiana and federal law.

State legislators added bath salts and more than 60 other substances this year to the list of banned synthetic drugs. Zoeller said criminals alter the chemical make-up of the drugs to include substances not on the list to skirt the law. To help combat this problem the Indiana Board of Pharmacy now has rulemaking authority to add any substances that have been listed by other states or the federal government.

In June, Zoeller hosted an inter-state summit in Evansville to tackle the growing threat of synthetic drugs and small-batch methamphetamine production. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Vanderburgh County Prosecutor’s Office, law enforcement authorities, public health experts and other prosecutors’ offices from both states participated in the meeting. Zoeller said this statewide initiative was developed during that meeting and he plans to continue building partnerships with other prosecutors’ offices and law enforcement groups across the state.