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Aromatherapy distributors challenge new 'look-alike' synthetic drug law

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Four companies that sell novelty items, aromatherapy products and other items have filed a lawsuit against Indiana’s prosecutors, alleging a newly enacted law that makes it illegal to possess or deal “look-alike” synthetic drugs is unconstitutional.

The companies, located around the state, claim the new law – Senate Enrolled Act 536, which took effect May 7 – could lead a reasonable person to include cigarettes, potpourri or catnip under the synthetic drug look-alike substance definition.

Sen. Jim Merritt (R-Indianapolis) authored the bill that tightened the state’s ban on synthetic drugs and closed a loophole in the previous drug ban by making it illegal to make, distribute or possess synthetic drug look-alike substances.

Even before this law took effect, the plaintiffs say they were subjected to search and seizures by law enforcement, according to the lawsuit filed Wednesday in the Indianapolis Division of the Southern District of Indiana. After the statute was enacted, plaintiff Little Arm Inc. had products taken by the Indiana State Excise Police claiming that they were a look-alike substance.

“Plaintiffs have suffered a significant loss of revenue and goodwill in their respective communities as a result of Defendants’ actions and will continue to suffer those losses as long as Defendants persist in targeting Plaintiffs’ lawful business activities with baseless accusations, threats and/or intimidation through media statements and harassment of Plaintiffs’ customers and/or vendors,” the suit says.

The plaintiffs deny that their aromatherapy products contain synthetic drugs. They allege the new law is unconstitutional because it violates due process under the 14th Amendment, the equal protection clause in Article 1, Sections 23, and constitutes a regulatory taking of property in violation of the Fifth Amendment and Article 1, Section 21 of the state Constitution.

The companies seek a preliminary and permanent injunction preventing enforcement of the new law.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said Wednesday his office will defend the legislators’ public policy decision that “the Indiana Code ought not be circumvented by peddlers of synthetic drugs who try to exploit loopholes in order to profit from the sale of potentially dangerous substances.”

The case is Little Arm Inc., et al. v. Prosecutors, et al., 1:13-CV-862.

 

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