Synthetic drug testing at issue

By Christina Calloway

PNT senior writer

When a bill that would have put in statute more than 100 chemicals found in synthetic drugs failed to pass, Sen. Wilson Beffort took matters into her own hands.

The Sandia Park Republican issued a letter to law enforcement agencies across the state urging them to prosecute distributors of synthetic drugs because she said the chemicals have been deemed illegal by the state Board of Pharmacy

But Clovis Police Chief Steve Sanders said knowledge of those chemicals is not the issue; it’s testing them at the state level to make sure they’re illegal that’s causing the holdup in taking action against distributors.

“The issue is getting them tested to determine what drugs are in the materials being sold,” Sanders said.

Even with both the cities of Clovis and Portales having recently passed ordinances outlawing the sale, possession or use of synthetic marijuana, officials say synthetic drugs continue to have a presence in the community and the holdup in prosecuting distributors stems from what Sanders identifies as a “bottleneck” at the state lab, where the CPD is limited to about 30 cases at one time.

Sanders said it can take anywhere from three to six months to get a response from the lab on the materials they send.

Portales Police Chief Pat Gallegos said when state or local governments pass drug-related laws, he said distributors often find ways around them.

Portales officials had seen a cluster of incidents last year involving the hospitalization of area youth after the use of synthetic drugs. Gallegos said since then, synthetic marijuana continues to be a problem.

“It’s still a problem, just like any other drug,” Gallegos said.

Gallegos said he can’t put a number to how many calls they respond to involving the drug but he says every now and then officers will respond to a youth or adult who consumed the drug.

Sanders said the area’s drug task force has undercover operations involving the purchase of alleged synthetic drugs, but he declined to go into further detail.

He added the department secured funding through the Clovis City Commission and recently purchased a device that allows them to test drugs at the department.

Sanders said a positive result from the device is enough for them to use probable cause in issuing search warrants as well as making arrests.

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