May 3, 2011

HARRISBURG, PA – Legislation to ban unregulated, dangerous synthetic drugs that are wreaking havoc in Pennsylvania’s communities is one step closer to becoming law.  The state Senate Judiciary Committee today reported out of committee S.B. 1006 (Vogel, R-Beaver) to ban the possession, use and sale of so-called bath salts, synthetic marijuana and salvia divinorum.  Pennsylvania’s district attorneys are calling for a law banning the drugs before schools recesses for summer to avoid a potential epidemic of dangerous drug use and overdoses among children.

“In a matter of six months, district attorneys and law enforcement have seen the devastating effects of unregulated, dangerous drugs making inroads into our communities,” said Dauphin County District Attorney Edward M. Marsico, who is also president of the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association (PDAA).  “Drugs that have been created to mimic the effects of cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana should not be legal and should not be available to anyone -especially curious teenagers interested in a currently legal, but very dangerous, high.  We thank the Senate Judiciary Committee for taking action and urge the legislature send a bill to the governor before schools recess this summer.”

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 reported out of committee today by the Senate Judiciary Committee and similar legislation recently passed by the House 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 unregulated drugs are readily available and sold legally by convenience stores, hemp shops, smoke shops and beer distributors.

PDAA has made the ban of unregulated, synthetic drugs among its top legislative priorities.  In the last six months, they have seen a significant increase in the availability and use of the drugs, along with bizarre, dangerous behaviors by those high on them.  Emergency rooms are also reporting an increase in overdoses related to these new drugs.  The epidemic reached such proportions in the north eastern part of the state that Luzerne and Lackawanna Counties recently imposed local injunctions banning the sale of synthetic drugs.

“Unregulated drugs like bath salts and K2 are going to be a statewide problem which is why we are asking for a statewide solution,” Marsico said. “The longer we wait, the more likely kids will die.”

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has received more than 55 calls regarding bath salts thus far this year, up from just 10 last year.  Nationally, poison control centers have reported more than 1,200 calls through March, up from 298 calls in all of 2010.  New Jersey, North Dakota, Florida and Louisiana have already banned bath salts.