H.R. 1254: Synthetic Drug Control Act of 2011

H.R. 1254

Synthetic Drug Control Act of 2011

December 7, 2011 (112th Congress, 1st Session)

Staff Contact
Sarah Makin

Floor Situation

On Tuesday, December 6, 2011, the House is scheduled to consider H.R. 1254, the Synthetic Drug Control Act of 2011, under a suspension of the rules, requiring a two-thirds majority for passage.  H.R. 1254 was introduced by Rep. Charles Dent (R-PA) on March 30, 2011, and was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.  The committee held a mark-up session on July 28, 2011, and ordered the bill reported, as amended, by voice vote.

Bill Summary

H.R. 1254 would amend the Controlled Substances Act to prohibit harmful synthetic drugs that imitate the hallucinogenic or stimulant properties of drugs like marijuana, cocaine or methamphetamines. 

Additionally, H.R. 1254 would enhance the authority of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), to temporarily schedule new substances.


According to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce House Report 112-295, synthetic drugs imitate the hallucinogenic or stimulant properties of illegal drugs like marijuana, cocaine or methamphetamines. Although synthetic drugs can affect the brain in a manner that is similar to Schedule I drugs and may be more harmful than the scheduled substances they simulate, these synthetic drugs are not prohibited under federal law.

Synthetic drugs are a serious public health problem, and, unfortunately, the use of these substances is increasing dramatically.  In a concerted effort to circumvent the Controlled Substances Act, manufacturers manipulate the chemical structure of compounds used in synthetic drugs, while largely maintaining the pharmacological activity of the illegal substances they imitate.  Subsequently, these synthetic drugs are sold to consumers as harmless alternatives to marijuana, cocaine, or methamphetamines.

Families across the country have witnessed firsthand that these designer drugs are anything but harmless. There are numerous instances where the use of these drugs has resulted in agitation, anxiety, vomiting, nausea, elevated blood pressure, seizures, tremors, hallucinations, paranoia, non-responsiveness, and death.

The Synthetic Drug Control Act of 2011 is designed to ensure that the manufacture and sale of these dangerous synthetic substances are prohibited in the United States.


The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that implementing H.R. 1254 would have no significant cost to the federal government.  Enacting the bill could affect direct spending and revenues; therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures apply.  However, CBO estimates that any effects would be insignificant for each year.

As a result of this legislation, the government might be able to pursue cases involving drug use that it otherwise would not be able to prosecute.  CBO expects that H.R. 1254 would apply to a relatively small number of additional offenders, however, so any increase in costs for law enforcement, court proceedings, or prison operations would not be significant.  Any such costs would be subject to the availability of appropriated funds. Because those prosecuted and convicted under H.R. 1254 could be subject to criminal fines, the federal government might collect additional fines if the legislation is enacted.  Criminal fines are recorded as revenues, deposited in the Crime Victims Fund, and later spent.  CBO expects that any additional revenues and direct spending would not be significant because of the small number of cases likely to be affected.

H.R. 1254 would impose private-sector mandates, as defined in UMRA, on manufacturers, sellers, and consumers of certain synthetic chemicals.  CBO estimates that the cost of complying with those mandates would probably exceed the annual threshold established in UMRA for private-sector mandates in the first year after enactment ($142 million in 2011, adjusted annually for inflation).