Missouri House approves ban on 'bath salt' drugs

Tuesday, May 10, 2011 | 11:37 p.m. CDT

JEFFERSON CITY — Synthetic drugs mimicking the effects of cocaine and marijuana that often are marketed as incense or "bath salts" would be outlawed in Missouri under legislation given final approval Tuesday.

The bill marks Missouri's second attempt in as many years to curtail synthetic drugs.

A law enacted last year banned possession of one type of synthetic marijuana, called spice cannabinoids, which are sprayed on plants and sold as incense known by the name K2. But another form of synthetic marijuana with a different chemical formula, known as K3, went on the market soon after that legislation was passed.

This year's legislation seeks to ban that newest alternative drug by expanding the definition of marijuana in state drug laws to include synthetic forms. It also seeks to outlaw synthetic drugs being marketed as "bath salts" which the bill's sponsor, Rep. Ward Franz, R-West Plains, says can act similar to cocaine by speeding up people's heart rates and causing them to hallucinate and become violent.

The House passed the legislation 143-13, sending it to Gov. Jay Nixon. The bill previously passed the Senate.

Law enforcement officials told legislators earlier this year that the drugs are being sold as "bath salts" to avoid detection by federal regulators and law enforcement officials.

Unlike actual bath salts, which resemble small colorful rocks and are sold in large canisters, the drugs are a white or light brown powder sold in small packets to people who ask for it by codenames like "Sunshine." A 250-milligram package of the substance usually costs about $27 at smoke shops or convenience stores, while a much larger container of actual bath salts can be purchased at retail stores for about $4.

The law enforcement officials said they have seen a marked increase in the use of the "bath salt" drugs, and a similar increase in the number of injuries and deaths related to those artificial drugs.

Franz said Tuesday that the substances should be banned because, unlike actual bath salts, they are not used for anything except as drugs.

"None of these things are useful in any other way to society," he said.

The changes attracted little opposition in the House, but Rep. Mike Colona, D-St. Louis, said outlawing the synthetic drugs could hurt businesses that also sell products like pipes and flavored tobacco.

"It once again tells stores that we're taking these products away and that they should stop selling them and stop paying sales tax on them," he said.

Rep. Don Phillips, R-Kimberling City, said the synthetic substances need to be outlawed to discourage teenagers from experimenting with them as a less expensive way to get the same "high" of marijuana.

"We've got a lot of young people out there who are misled and this stuff is nothing more than a poison," he said.

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Nathan Whitaker May 11, 2011 | 6:28 a.m.

Just more big-government meddling from the liberal left interfering in the private lives of citizens and the free market.

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Dick May 11, 2011 | 10:07 a.m.

Nice thought, except for the fact that it is a Republican controlled House and Senate. So obviously your attack is off base. Looks like both parties are just trying to protect people from doing something hazardous to their health.

(Report Comment)
Nathan Whitaker May 11, 2011 | 10:29 a.m.

So, you think that protecting people from doing something hazardous to their health is sufficient justification for passing new laws that make a currently legal product illegal?
Especially a product that causes about 300 deaths per year? What about a legal product that causes about 10,000 deaths in Missouri per year? Those should be made illegal, right?

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire May 11, 2011 | 12:12 p.m.

300 people? REALLY??????????

Until a few months ago I had never heard of the stuff.
I have yet to meet anyone that admitted to using it.
But I could probably count ten thousand people I have met who inhale nicotine.

So from what you said it sounds like maybe the one IS dangerous.

Do you have a source on that figure?

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Dick May 11, 2011 | 12:18 p.m.

I'm all for banning smoking. I've watched too many friends and relatives cough their lungs out as they died. I've heard them tell me they wished they never started smoking.

(Report Comment)
Nathan Whitaker May 11, 2011 | 2:00 p.m.

Yes Paul, I do have a source for the "300 deaths per year" statistic, except it's the number of fatalities from alcohol in Missouri (and some sources put it closer to 1000/year). The 10,000 deaths per year is indeed from tobacco.
After searching for some reliable statistic on the number of deaths from these "killer bath salts", it seems there might be a handful, if that. Certainly nothing close to the fatalities caused by alcohol and tobacco. So, we need to immediately ban all alcohol and tobacco consumption in Missouri, to "protect people from doing something hazardous to their health".
Then, we'll need to ban all fatty foods, sugary foods, and have legally-required daily exercise programs that apply to all citizens, since these items and sedentary lifestyles cause more deaths each year than these awful "killer bath salts". I think everyone would jump at the chance to vote for these changes, since we'd be protecting people from doing something hazardous to their health.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking May 11, 2011 | 6:15 p.m.

I think the issue with the bath salts is they are unregulated. They're amphetamine-like drugs in various forms, and like JWH-018, have had little to no toxicity or adverse effect testing, or dose standardization. You don't know what you're buying, where in the case of alcohol and tobacco, you do. The alcohol and cigarette makers are even required to warn you it's bad for you (not like anyone doesn't know that).

I think anyone should be able to buy any drug they want as long as it doesn't harm anyone else. But this is an issue where the buyer doesn't often know what he's buying or what it will do to him.


(Report Comment)

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