The Pennsylvania Senate on Tuesday unanimously approved legislation that adds the ingredients of "bath salts" and synthetic marijuana to the list of controlled substances.
The legislation also adds the ingredients of synthetic marijuana, salvia divanorum and a synthetic cocaine called "blizzard" to the list, effectively making possession of the substances illegal.
The bill was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 28.
The state House of Representatives passed similar legislation on April 4. The law will go into effect after Gov. Tom Corbett signs it.
State Senator David G. Argall was one of the bill's co-sponsors.
"I'm pleased to see the legislature move quickly on such a terrible tragedy that has unfolded across the state. So many families have been impacted and this is the first step in ensuring we crack down on the sale and abuse of 'bath salts' in Pennsylvania," he said.
Other lawmakers supporting the bill were Elder A. Vogel, Robert D. Robbins, John C. Rafferty Jr., Timothy J. Solobay, Richard L. Alloway II, Gene Yaw, Jane Clare Orie, Lisa Baker, Wayne D. Fontana, Edwin B. Erickson, Mike Folmer, Dominic Pileggi, Jay Costa, Robert M. Tomlinson, LeAnna M. Washington, Lawrence M. Farnese, Lisa Boscola and Vincent J. Hughes.
The next step is for the bill to move to the Senate floor today for the first consideration. From there, it would go to the Senate Appropriations Committee, then back to the Senate to be voted on by the entire body. The bill would become law after being signed by Gov. Tom Corbett.
The "bath salts" at the heart of the legislation contain 3,4-Methylenedioxypyrovalerone, or MDPV, and mephedrone, which mimic the effect of drugs like "speed" and cocaine. They have no connection at all with skin softening products sold in the heath and beauty sections of retail stores.
They are sold in tattoo parlors, 'head shops" and some gas stations and truck stops in small jars – about $40 for a scant half-teaspoon of the white powder – labeled Tranquillity, Blue Silk, Ivory Wave and other languid names. Manufacturers have labeled them "bath salts" to skirt drug laws. The synthetic marijuana is sold as "incense" for the same reason.
The white powder makes blood pressure spike, increases heart rates and drives users to extreme paranoia and hallucinations. Among the many incidents in past several weeks was one in Nesquehoning, where John Eremus, armed and high on bath salts, held police at bay for two hours.