Texas Plans to Illegalize Synthetic Stimulants known as "Bath Salts"

Carrie Feibel: “I’m standing outside a head shop in the Montrose. It’s called “Talk of the Town III.” It’s on Richmond. I asked the guy behind the counter for some bath salts and he produced four different brands. They come in tiny little jars, with about a half teaspoon of white flaky powder inside of them and they have names such as Blue Magic, Green Velvet, Tranquility and Ivory Gold.”

“This substance was easier to get than beer.”

That’s state representative Garnet Coleman. He backed a bill to ban MDPV, mephedrone and other ingredients found in the so-called bath salts.

“This is sometimes described as synthetic cocaine. And it dehydrates and has hallucinogens in it. And it can create really bad behavior like an LSD trip.”

The bill would put any chemical variant of the drug into the same substance category as cocaine and heroin. Even possession of a tiny amount would be a state felony earning a jail sentence of up to two years. Possessing much larger amounts, like a pound, could lead to life imprisonment.

Those penalties caught the attention of the American Civil Liberties Union.

“When we criminalize something, we’re making a choice about how we’re going to spend our tax dollars.”

Matt Simpson is a policy strategist for the Texas Chapter of the ACLU:

“The money that’s going to get spent trying to investigate and prosecute individuals for the possession of this, could have been used in programs that educate parents about the drug, could have been used to send individuals to some kind of rehabilitation program that’s been shown to be effective.”

Although the ACLU disagrees on what to do about the drug, there’s little disagreement about its risks.  

Poison control centers across the country report that calls about bath salts have skyrocketed, from 300 last year to more than 1700 in just the first few months of this year.  

At least five other states have banned the drugs this year, including Louisiana.

No law has been passed nationally, yet, on this fake type of cocaine. But last month the Drug Enforcement Administration banned chemicals used to manufacture so called “fake marijuana” products.

Representative Coleman says new drugs are being created in labs so quickly that the Texas Legislature, which only meets every other year, can’t keep up.

“The future of drugs is going to be not something grown out of the ground, but something created in the lab, put on the shelf as something legal, and until it is banned by the state, people can buy it any day, people can sell it any day, and no one’s done anything wrong.”

Coleman doubts that so-called “bath salts” will be the end of it. He says there’s no word yet on when or if Gov. Perry will sign the bill.

From the KUHF Health Science and Technology Desk, I’m Carrie Feibel.

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