Indiana appeals to state Supreme Court ruling throwing out portion of synthetic drug ban

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INDIANAPOLIS — Two rulings striking down part of Indiana's ban on synthetic drugs have been appealed to the state Supreme Court, the Indiana Attorney General's Office said Monday.

The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled a portion of the state's synthetic drug ban was unconstitutional because its definition of which substances are illegal is too hard to find in some cases. The appeals court made the ruling in similar decisions in two cases on Jan. 27.

The statute that took effect in 2012 bans more than 80 chemical compounds and their lookalikes, plus any substance declared a synthetic drug by the Indiana Board of Pharmacy. The Court of Appeals struck down the Board of Pharmacy portion of the prohibition. The Attorney General's Office appealed those rulings to the Indiana Supreme Court late last week.

"The statute is designed to be flexible and allow the Board of Pharmacy to update the banned synthetics list because the man-made nature of these drugs allows manufacturers to come up with endless new versions of these deadly products," Attorney General Greg Zoeller said in a news release.

In part, the appeal challenges the lower court's finding that requiring somebody to search through multiple statutes and the State Administrative Code to find all of the banned substances violates the due process that is required for penal statutes.

"Due process is not offended by the notion that citizens must look at a few statutes and a handful of administrative rules, all of which are easily accessible to the public, in order to determine the legality of a desired course of conduct," the state's appeal says in one of the two cases.

However, Mark Rutherford, the lead attorney representing both defendants in the two cases, said the law is cumbersome. Lawyers might be able to understand the law, but "most people aren't lawyers," he said.

"If the Supreme Court does take the case, then we'll reargue the case," Rutherford said.

Legislation that would clarify where the banned drugs can be found online and in the State Administrative Code has passed the state Senate and is pending in the Indiana House.

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