Legislation calling for thousands of dollars in fines and/or jail time for those who possess or sell designer drugs marketed as bath salts, synthetic marijuana, a hallucinogen called 2-Ce and salvia, goes into effect as of Aug. 21.
In the meantime, Gov. Tom Corbett, who on Thursday signed the bill into law, called upon business owners to stop selling the designer drugs.
"If left unchecked, synthetic drugs could have developed into the most dangerous drug crisis since methamphetamine labs found their way into our state,'' Corbett said. "This ban on synthetic drugs sends a strong message that Pennsylvania will not tolerate the use of these chemicals."
At the signing ceremony, Corbett cited several cases of people who hurt themselves or others after ingesting bath salts. Those examples included John Eremus, 46, of Nesquehoning, who on March 24 held police at bay for two hours with a high-powered rifle after ingesting bath salts; and that of Ryan Foley, 25, of West Scranton, who allegedly broke into a monastery and stabbed a priest in the hand and the face after using the drug.
State Sen. David G. Argall, who co-sponsored the bill, introduced by Sen. Elder Vogel, R-York County, said he's relieved. The bill also had the support of Sen. John Gordner (R-Northumberland), and state representatives RoseMarie Swanger (R-Lebanon), Jerry Stern (R-Blair) and Jennifer Mann (D-Lehigh).
"I'm grateful to see Gov. Corbett sign Senate Bill 1006, Sen. Vogel's legislation to ban the sale of bath salts and other synthetic drugs," Argall said. "It is my hope that we have seen the last of the devastating headlines about these terrible drugs throughout our region with this bill being signed into law."
According to the law, a first offense for possession with intent to deliver the drugs could result in five years in prison and a $15,000 fine. Simple possession of these substances would be a misdemeanor, carrying penalties of a $5,000 fine and up to one year in prison. Second and subsequent violations could net the offenders the maximum fine and double the penalty.
Corbett's action Thursday brought Pennsylvania in line with at least 20 other states that have banned the substances. Several counties in our state, including Schuylkill, also have prohibited their use and sale.
The drug marketed as bath salts the name helps manufacturers and sellers skirt drug laws contain 3,4-Methylenedioxypyrovalerone, or MDPV, and mephedrone, chemicals that mimic the effect of illegal stimulants such as methamphetamine and cocaine.
Hospital emergency departments have seen a jump in the numbers of patients admitted for paranoid and violent behavior, and hallucinations after using bath salts. Packaged in small containers labeled with languid names like "Tranquillity," Blue Silk" and Ivory Wave," the drug can also cause rapid heart rates and surging blood pressure.
The numbers of bath salts-related calls to poison control centers across the country increased fourfold this year, up from about 300 in 2010.
Corbett on Thursday thanked Pennsylvania state police and the District Attorneys Association for "helping craft the language for this legislation and working to see this ban on bath salts become law."