A possible overdose death on synthetic street drugs in Boyle County on Friday prompted the sheriff to offer a no-consequence opportunity for residents to turn in such drugs and reignited debate over stiffening penalties for trafficking in the substances.
Three people were charged with reckless homicide after the man was found dead.
Boyle County Sheriff Marty Elliott said police believe that Gregory Lane had taken a synthetic drug before he was found unresponsive at a home on Mocks Creek Drive in Danville about 12 a.m. Friday.
A synthetic drug has properties and effects similar to a known hallucinogen or narcotic but has a slightly altered chemical structure in order to get around laws against illegal substances.
Elliott said deputies found a baggie near Lane that appeared to be a synthetic substance. After police searched the home, they found a briefcase with 15 pounds of the substance, $3,000 in cash and a spray bottle containing a white chemical police believe was sprayed on the synthetic drug.
This is the first death believed to have been caused by a synthetic drug in Boyle County, Elliott said. It may be the first overdose death from a synthetic drug in Kentucky.
An autopsy on Lane was scheduled soon; a toxicology report will confirm Lane's cause of death. Lane was 51 and from Alum Springs Crosspike, according to the Danville Advocate Messenger
Police charged three people who were at the scene at the time of Lane's death. Martin Hoskins, 42, of Stanford, was charged with reckless homicide. Amy Young, 34, and Michael Graham Jr., 35, both of Danville, were charged with reckless homicide and trafficking in a synthetic substance. All three were being held at the Boyle County Detention Center. Young and Graham lived at the home on Mocks Creek Drive, Elliott said.
Elliott wants anyone who bought the synthetic drug to turn the substance in at the sheriff's department — no questions asked. The drug is dangerous, he said.
"It has the potential for serious physical injuries or even death," Elliott said.
It's not marijuana, he said.
"Drug dealers do things to make money," Elliott said. "They are not looking out for your best interest. They are not chemists. They are not pharmacists. They are not doctors. They are trying to make a buck, illegally, at your expense."
Boyle County is seeing an uptick in the amount of synthetic drugs in the area and the people who deal them. "We are seeing a lot of violent behavior from it," Elliott said.
More people are dealing synthetic drugs because the state's laws are more lenient when it comes to synthetic drugs, he said.
"Even with 15 pounds of this stuff, it's only a misdemeanor," Elliott said. "Fifteen pounds of heroin or cocaine and they would be serving time in federal prison. This has to change."
Van Ingram, the executive director of Kentucky's Office of Drug Control Policy, agrees with Elliott.
"It sets up a system of low risk and high reward," Ingram said of the misdemeanor charge of trafficking in a synthetic substance, first offense.
Trafficking in a synthetic substance second offense is a felony, Ingram said. Ingram and others in law enforcement backed a bill during the 2014 legislative session that would have changed a first offense of trafficking in a synthetic substance to a felony. That bill never gained traction.
"I haven't seen any similar bills filed this year," Ingram said. The 2015 legislative session began Tuesday.