Current state law termed inadequate.

Drug users in Arkansas travel across the border to Oklahoma to buy drugs because of problems with enforcing current laws, according to a state lawmaker.

House Bill 2323, by state Rep. John Bennett, would expand current bans on specific synthetic drugs to cover a range of drugs that traffickers have and will continue to dream up. The bill mirrors the language currently in law in Arkansas, based on the recommendation of law enforcement.

“I knew Oklahoma had an issue with the synthetic drugs but I had no idea how bad it was until my sheriff invited me out to do a ride along with one of his deputies,” said Bennett, R-Sallisaw. “There was a joint operation between the law enforcement in my area and Arkansas law enforcement. My district borders Arkansas, where legislation was passed that banned all synthetic drugs. However, since Arkansas borders my district in Oklahoma the citizens of Arkansas come to Oklahoma to buy these drugs and return to Arkansas. During the ride along, hundreds were detained from Oklahoma and Arkansas.”

Bennett said he learned from prosecutors and law enforcement involved in the operation that current Oklahoma law was inadequate.

“Although Oklahoma has implemented bans on specific formulas of synthetic marijuana and bath salts, drug makers can easily sidestep these regulations,” Bennett said. “Manufacturers adapt simply by replacing the chemical compound of a banned synthetic cannabinoid or cathinone with a newer formulation that is not yet known to authorities. This modification process poses increasing risk to its users, who are unaware of the reactions the new chemicals may cause. Therefore my law enforcement professionals recommended that Oklahoma pass a law similar to Arkansas to stop the sale and use of the synthetic drugs. In talking with Arkansas law enforcers and prosecutors, I learned that their state law has been very effective, so I have a filed a bill that would mirror Arkansas law.”

The Second Regular Session of the 54th Legislature begins Feb. 3.