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Synthetic Drug Enforcement

Mayor Bowser Signing BillDCRA’s Commitment

On July 6, 2015, Mayor Muriel Bowser signed into law emergency legislation aimed at preventing the sale of synthetic drugs in the District of Columbia.  The law authorizes the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA), and District government as a whole to take swifter and stronger action against businesses who sell these illegal products.  

Under the new law:

  • MPD can immediately close—for up to 96 hours—any business selling or even possessing synthetic drugs;
  • DCRA can initiate a legal action to revoke the business’s license(s);
  • DCRA can issue a fine of $10,000 for a first offense; and
  • Penalties increase for subsequent offenses.

DCRA has already shut down businesses for selling synthetic drugs and will continue to take proactive steps to crack down on others that try to sell these harmful to substances in our community.

What exactly are Synthetic Drugs?

Synthetic drugs are chemically altered substances that can produce hallucinogenic effects similar to illegal drugs like Phencyclidine (PCP) or Methamphetamine (Meth). 
They are usually labeled as common products such as potpourri or bath salts, but they are sold in much smaller quantities and at much higher prices.  For example, a store would sell a few grams of “potpourri” for $15—many times more expensive than the price for comparable products.

Often, the packaging also includes warnings or information that wouldn’t ordinarily be found in this type of product, such as glass cleaner saying “legal in all 50 states”.


If you believe any businesses may be selling synthetic drugs, please call 311 immediately.

You can also read more about DCRA’s efforts to keep synthetic drugs out of the community here.