When synthetic cathinone products began to appear in convenience stores in the mid-2000s, they contained substances that were not specifically banned by state or federal drug laws. But by the end of the decade, a few states passed laws to ban their sale.

Federal Laws

In 2011 the DEA used emergency protocols to temporarily ban some of the substances found in synthetic cathinone products. In 2012, President Obama signed the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act, permanently placing several different classes of psychoactive substances, including many synthetic cathinones, into Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) – the most restrictive classification possible.

State Laws

Each state is currently using various administration actions, prosecution strategies, and regulations for product labeling and branding to either quickly ban individual substances or criminalize sales. Most states have also enacted criminal and civil penalties (and many others have pending legislation) for the sale of products that attempt to avoid being advertised as “synthetic drugs” by claiming they are “not for human consumption.”

Recently, states like New York, Virginia and others have pushed for new laws that broaden the chemical definitions meant to be outlined in Schedule I as well as call for harsher penalties for sale of synthetic cathinone products.

Alternatives to Prohibition

Drug prohibition laws essentially “mark the battle lines,” as manufacturers of synthetic cathinones can make small changes to the chemical formulas to skirt these laws, producing newer synthetic cathinones that have not yet been scheduled.

Instead of further criminalization, alternative approaches are needed to reduce accidental deaths related to drug use, improve public health outcomes, care for vulnerable populations, and protect young people.

See the fact sheet for more information and sources.