New changes in Tennessee on synthetic drug laws

SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. - One year ago, Tennessee lawmakers cracked down on synthetic drugs passing laws looking at the chemical ingredients, the sale, and even the effects of these dangerous drugs.

While these laws have been successful in banning things like bath salts, K-2, and synthetic marijuana, we wanted to see the changes these laws have made over the last year.

Meet Regina Dean, she's currently doing time at the Sullivan County Jail. But before that, she was one of thousands in our area who experimented with synthetic drugs. "It messed my life up, more than my charges I've got now messed my life up," she said.

Dean says she would have made different choices if synthetic drugs had been illegal.

But April of last year, lawmakers in Tennessee passed landmark legislation making the drugs illegal. However, we learned there were still some challenges when the drug cases reached the courtroom.

"Under the old legislation we had to get chemical analysis, so we have a lot of cases that are pending prosecution or presentment to the Grand Jury where we're waiting for lab reports," said Sullivan County Assistant District Attorney Gene Perrin.

That's because prosecutors had to prove the chemical makeup of a substance was already illegal and that it had no medicinal purpose with negative effects.

Over the last year, state leaders have been doing 'technical housekeeping' to combat this problem. "So we had to codify in the law what does it mean to be similar to? And we actually got down to atoms and double-bonds, and chemical functional groups," said State Representative Tony Shipley.

Representative Shipley says these recently passed changes will be a big help and every year there will be a new discussion adding substances as they come along.

The impact of the law changes can be felt all across Tennessee. "With this law passing, it's going to be harder for our kids to get their hands on stuff like that," added Dean.

Virginia also has legislation making it a felony to manufacture, sell, or even have synthetic drugs.

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