April 5, 2011

HARRISBURG, PA – Pennsylvania is one step closer to making illegal dangerous synthetic drugs that are plaguing communities throughout commonwealth after the state House of Representatives yesterday voted 195 to 0 to ban the possession, use and sale of so-called bath salts, synthetic marijuana, and salvia divinorum.

The Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association (PDAA) congratulated the House for its overwhelming and bipartisan support for H.B. 365 (Swanger, R-Lebanon) and urged the state Senate to take up the measure immediately.

“Bath salts may represent the most dangerous drug crisis we face since methamphetamine labs found their way into Pennsylvania several years ago,” said Dauphin County District Attorney Edward M. Marsico, who is also president of the PDAA.  “Banning bath salts and other dangerous synthetic drugs is among the top legislative priorities for Pennsylvania’s district attorneys because they pose a serious threat to the health and well-being of anyone who uses them and even the people around them.”

Bath salts have nothing to do with spas or baths.  Bath salts are powerful synthetic stimulants designed to be comparable to cocaine or methamphetamine, with similar risksThose who use bath salts feel agitation, paranoia, and/or hallucinate, and often commit violent acts.  The legislation passed today would add the chemical compounds in bath salts to the list of Schedule I Controlled Substances.  In addition to bath salts, the legislation also bans synthetic forms of marijuana often referred to as K2 or Spice, which poses serious public health dangers.

The longer we wait, the more likely kids will die, and if left unchecked synthetic drugs could become our next drug epidemic,” Marsico said. “Unfortunately we have already seen the horrific results of bath salts throughout Pennsylvania.”

Recent bath salt incidents include:

  • Allegheny National Forest. After two men were found dead in the woods, police discovered empty bath salts containers and hypodermic needles in their car. They are still investigating their cause of death.
  • Blair County: Two friends, both high, stabbed each other in a dispute over a bath salts container.
  • Carbon County: A hallucinating 46-year-old man, high on bath salts, held police at bay with an assault rifle for hours before surrendering.
  • Easton: Police received frantic phone calls on Christmas Day from a man, high on bath salts, who said his home was surrounded by armed intruders. He greeted the responding officers with a sword. His wife appeared at a smashed window with a child in her arms and yelled that she was going to jump.
  • Scranton: A man high on bath salts broke into a monastery and stabbed a priest.
  • Wilkes-Barre. Police arrested a man three days in a row, high on bath salts each time, for chasing cars and entering occupied parked cars. Two of the arrests required a stun gun.

Poison control centers nationwide received 298 calls about bath salts in 2010.  Already this year, they have received more than 1,200 calls.  The Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania has received more than 55 calls regarding bath salts thus far this year, up from just 10 last year.

In the United States, North Dakota, Florida and Louisiana have already banned bath salts.  Internationally, the European Union, Australia, Canada and Israel have enacted measures to ban it as well.

“We urge the Senate to help protect Pennsylvanians, especially our children, from the scourge of bath salts, as well as synthetic marijuana and other synthetic drugs and to quickly enact H.B. 365, or similar legislation, so we can start fighting back against these dangerous, deadly and currently legal drugs.” Marsico concluded.