Synthetic Drug Legislation


Synthetic Drug Legislation

HB0012 (Shipley)/ SB0048 (Beavers)

Most Recent Action

Rep. Tony Shipley has introduced new legislation this year to update the synthetic drug legislation enacted last year. Shipley's legislation, HB 0012, is a technical corrections bill that clarifies the definition of an "analogue controlled substance" and adds new drugs and compounds to a list of synthetic cannabinoids covered in the law.

Sen. Mae Beavers is sponsoring the legislation in the Senate, SB0048.

last updated Feb 4, 1013

On April 26, SB3018 / HB 3175 passed both Houses and was signed by the Speaker of the Senate and the Speaker of the House. It has been transmitted to the Governor for his signature.


  • Eliminates the provision stating the possible adverse consequences of convictions of offenses related to controlled substance analogues.
  • Declares the building of any business where a controlled substance analogue related violation is committed by its employee or owner a public nuisance and shall be subject to abatement.
  • Removes controlled substance analogues from Tenn. Code Ann. 50-9-106 which requires employers who are covered as "drug-free workplace" employers to test for use of controlled substance analogues in the manner required for other substances; from Tenn. Code Ann. 55-50-405 which requires the Commissioner of Safety to suspend the license of commercial driver convicted of offenses relating to controlled substance analogues; and from Tenn. Code Ann. 63-1-309 which prohibits a person, from partly or wholly owning a pain management clinic, if such person was convicted of, pled nolo contendere to, or received deferred adjudication for distributing a controlled substance analogue offense.


  • Changes references of controlled substances to include controlled substance analogues.
  • Defines controlled substance analogues. Increases from Class A misdemeanor to Class D felony violations of laws involving the manufacture, production, distribution, or possession of salvia divinorum and specified synthetic cannabinoids; subsequent violation is a Class C felony, and sale to a minor is punishable one classification higher than the punishment provided.
  • Creates Class D felony to manufacture, deliver, dispense, or sell a controlled substance analogue or posses with such intent, and all consequences provided by law that may result from a conviction for a controlled substance offense shall also apply if the conviction involves a controlled substance analogue. Establishes factors to be considered when determining whether a substance is a controlled substance analogue.

last updated 4/30/2012


Over the past several years, a growing number of cities have become increasingly alarmed about the use and sale of a controlled substance analogue, otherwise known as a "synthetic drug."

The state passed legislation three years that made it a misdemeanor to manufacture, sell or possess synthetic drugs. The law was based on the chemical compounds in the products, and drug manufacturers have managed to skirt the law by changing the chemical compounds slightly, making enforcement difficult.

TML has been in contact with the Tennessee District Attorneys Conference concerning the development of legislation and the formation of an alliance to address synthetic drugs. During those discussions, the Conference staff informed TML that they were in the midst of developing a legislative initiative.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman, Mae Beavers, has agreed to sponsor the legislation, which she developed in conjunction with Representative Tony Shipley and the Tennessee District Attorneys.

The proposed legislation would tie regulation to the relationship to illicit drugs and ban any substance that has "a similar effect on the central nervous system as controlled substances.

A summary follows:

  • The bill defines a controlled substance analogue (synthetic drug) as any substance the chemical structure of which is a derivative of, or substantially similar to, the chemical structure of a controlled substance or any substance that has a stimulant, depressant, or hallucinogenic effect on the central nervous system substantially similar to or greater than the effect of a controlled substance.
  • It is an offense to knowingly manufacture, deliver, dispense, sell a controlled substance analogue (synthetic drug). It is also an offense to possess for the purposes of manufacturing, delivering, dispensing or selling a synthetic drug. Violation of the above offenses would be punishable by the same fine, mandatory and discretionary, and would be classified, for purposes of sentencing, the same as: (1) The controlled substance to which it is a derivative of, or has a substantially similar chemical structure as; or (2) the controlled substance with which it's stimulant, depressant, or hallucinogenic effect on the central nervous system is substantially similar to or greater than.
  • In addition, the bill makes it a Class A misdemeanor to possess or casually exchange a synthetic drug. Similarly, it would be a Class A misdemeanor to represent, advertise, infer or intend that any substance is a derivative of, or substantially similar to, a controlled substance or has a stimulant, depressant, or hallucinogenic effect on the central nervous system substantially similar to or greater than a controlled substance.
  • Any sentence enhancement authorized by present law for the manufacture, delivery, or sale of a controlled substance; the possession of a controlled substance with the intent to manufacture, deliver or sell such substance; or the simple possession or casual exchange of a controlled substance, that is based on a specified number of prior convictions, the offense being committed in a specified location or involving a specified age group, would apply if the substance is a controlled substance analogue.
  • Any disability, disqualification, forfeiture, suspension, revocation, prohibition, tax or other adverse consequence provided by law that may result from a conviction for an offense involving a controlled substance would also apply if the conviction is for a violation of the offense described above in (1) involving a synthetic drug. Such adverse consequences may include judgment of infamy; disqualification to hold public office, vote or other rights of citizenship; suspension or revocation of any license or permit or ineligibility to obtain any license or permit; forfeiture of assets relating to the offense; ineligibility for any alternative to incarceration; suspension or expulsion from public schools; civil liability; termination of parental rights; and tax liability under the present Unauthorized Substances Act.
  • The legislation excludes: (1) any substance for which there is an approved use or new drug application by the FDA; (2) any compound, mixture, or preparation that contains any controlled substance that is not for administration to a human being or animal, and that is packaged in a manner such that it does not present any significant potential for abuse; or (3) any substance to which an investigational exemption applies under the provisions of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act regarding new drugs, but only to the extent that conduct with respect to the substance is pursuant to such exemption.