News organizations have recently documented the proliferation of synthetic or “designer” drugs that produce physical and psychological effects similar to those of traditional mind-altering substances such as marijuana, cocaine, and heroin. Policymakers have scrambled to outlaw substances that can sometimes regain legal status with a modest change in chemical makeup. Some of the new drugs even masquerade as such innocuous, perfectly legal products as air fresheners or potpourri. Can these new mind-altering substances be outlawed without resorting to tortured legal rationales? Are there alternatives to a prohibitionist strategy? Could policymakers better promote public safety by requiring strict production standards, but not attempting to ban their use? Cato senior fellow Ted Galen Carpenter will discuss his recent study
on synthetic drugs, followed by a discussion with other experts on the future of drug policy in the United States.