With thousands of pending drug tests at the Missouri State Highway Patrol Crime Lab, mid-Missouri law enforcement have several months to wait before making a criminal case against people caught with synthetic drugs.
ABC 17 News has covered issues surrounding the drugs, including imitation marijuana, known as “K2” or “spice.” Health professionals still struggle to know the specifics of the drug’s effect, while the drug is sold primarily in convenience stores.
Even after seizing the drug from stores caught with it, law enforcement agencies face long wait times to prove it’s actually sprayed with an illegal chemical. Lieutenant Jason Jones with the Columbia Police Department said they seized a “significant” amount of the product at the Ultramart convenience store on Paris Road on February 19. However, Lt. Jones said they anticipate waiting at least a month to know if they can arrest anyone for selling it.
ABC 17 News learned from the Missouri State Highway Patrol that its lab received 17,297 pieces of evidence for drug cases in 2015, nearly 62% of its workload that year. There are still 2,417 pending drug cases, which take between one and three months to complete an analysis, Lieutenant Paul Reinsch told ABC 17 News.
Even after testing, the results often don’t provide police a chance to make a case, Sergeant Shannon Jeffries told ABC 17 News in November. That starts the process again – where law enforcement would need to get a sample and send it to the Highway Patrol lab for testing.
State representative Bonnaye Mims, D – Kansas City, has proposed a bill the last two years to start a “pilot program” between the lab and the Patrol’s Division of Drug and Crime Control to figure out which chemicals creators of synthetic marijuana were using. The list is evolving, Rep. Mims said, and the research would allow the Patrol to develop “presumptive” technology that would allow police to identify the drugs on scene, while freeing space at the lab. Legislators were concerned the program lacked available funding last year, its fiscal note estimating at least $5 million in its first year.
“I understand that we don’t have a lot to work with, but there’s some things we need to look at that instead of money, how do we save lives?” Mims asked.
The representative said even if she was not the one to see the bill into law, she hoped bringing it up each year would raise awareness of the drug’s dangerous effects.