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Bath salts legislation set for full House vote

Published May 25. 2011 05:00PM

Legislation that would bar possession and sale of a synthetic stimulant known as bath salts is poised to be considered for a full vote by the House of Representatives. The proposed law also includes synthetic marijuana and a hallucinogen called 2-ce. All three "designer drugs" are currently legal.

State Rep. Ron Marsico (R-Lower Paxton), majority chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, moved the legislation, Senate Bill 1006, out of the committee Tuesday by unanimous vote. It was referred to the committee on April 28.

"I have been working closely with the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, Senator Stewart Greenleaf, in order to ensure rapid movement of legislation that will help to alleviate the growing problem that Pennsylvania has been seeing with the abuse of bath salts," Marsico said. "Many cases have been reported of people legally purchasing concentrated bath salts and using them as a replacement for cocaine and heroin. These bath salts, when smoked, snorted or injected, have the same effects as smoking, snorting or injecting cocaine or heroin."

Senate Bill 1006 was sponsored by Sen. Elder Vogel Jr. (R-Allegheny/Beaver/Lawrence), and co-sponsored by Sen. David G. Argall.

"I'm thankful to see Sen. Vogel's legislation to ban 'bath salts' pass in the House," said Argall. "In the midst of a difficult budget year, I think we have all seen enough devastating headlines to make banning this synthetic drug a priority. With many families across our region and state affected by this drug, I am hopeful that this legislation will prevent future tragedies from occurring."

The "bath salts" at issue contain 3,4-Methylenedioxypyrovalerone, or MDPV, and mephedrone, chemicals that mimic the effect of illegal stimulants such as "speed" and cocaine. The chemical combinations carry the name "bath salts" to skirt drug laws. Sold in tiny containers labeled "Tranquillity," "Blue Silk," "Ivory Wave" and other languid names, the jars contain about a scant half-teaspoon of powder and sell for about $40 apiece. They are not used to bathe. The soon-to-be illegal bath salts are sold in tattoo parlors, "head shops" and some gas stations and truck stops in small jars.

Ingesting, snorting or injecting "bath salts" can spike blood pressure, cause extreme paranoia and hallucinations and increase heart rates. Police reports indicate an increasing number of people causing car crashes, attacking others and destroying property under the influence of bath salts. In Nesquehoning, John Eremus, allegedly armed and high on bath salts, held police at bay for two hours.

"People who have witnessed the effects of these substances have been begging us to immediately address this growing problem. Earlier this year, a man was arrested for breaking into a Scranton monastery and attacking a priest after taking bath salts," Marsico said. "Less than a month ago, a Schuylkill County man was arrested for walking around with a machete in his hands while under the influence of bath salts."

He also cited an incident in Annville, Lebanon County, in which a man allegedly assaulted a state trooper and tried to injure another trooper while under the influence of bath salts.

"The point is, many individuals who have used bath salts have been hospitalized, become suicidal, threatened the lives of others, endangered the welfare of children and experienced severe hallucinations," Marsico said. "I am pleased that we were able to move this legislation out of committee quickly. However, while we are waiting for this legislation to be enacted, I think it is the moral responsibility of business owners who are selling these bath salts to pull them off their shelves immediately in order to keep Pennsylvanians safe."

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