HARRISBURG — The state Senate gave final approval Wednesday to legislation banning so-called “bath salts,” synthetic marijuana and the hallucinogenic plant known as salvia divinorum. The 50-member chamber voted unanimously to ban the substances, which are now legal and easily available for a cheap high. Gov. Tom Corbett, a former state attorney general, will sign the bill when it reaches his desk, an administration spokesman said. “We need to get this off the streets and out of our communities,” said Sen. Elisabeth Baker, R-Luzerne, echoing the sentiments of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle as the Senate voted. Not to be confused with the sweet-smelling concoctions at the mall, the bath salts lawmakers moved to ban Wednesday resemble baking soda and are typically sold at convenience stores, head shops and over the Internet. A single dose can cost as little as $20. Law enforcement officials and legislators in states ranging from Maryland to Illinois are moving to clamp down on bath salts, which mimic the effects of methamphetamine and cocaine. Several states — including Minnesota, North Dakota, Florida and Louisiana — have banned their sale. “People don’t initially realize how damaging this drug is.
They think of bath salts, they think of something you pour into the tub,” said Sen. Patricia Vance, R-Cumberland, a former nurse. “People’s personalities change … People don’t realize the horrible things it can do.” The bill the Senate approved Wednesday bans the substances and the chemical compounds contained within them. Penalties for the sale and possession of them will be addressed in a separate piece of legislation, said Sen. Elder Vogel, R-Lawrence, who sponsored the bill. Penalties likely will range from probation for small users to several years in jail for dealers. Synthetic marijuana is banned in 17 states, said Rep. Jennifer Mann, D-Lehigh, who shepherded the fake pot bill through the House. The substance, sold under the brand names of “K2” and “Spice,” has also been banned by colleges and military organizations, she said. On the federal level, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., is among those calling for a nationwide ban on synthetic marijuana and bath salts. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency lists bath salts as a “drug of concern.” Mann said she believes a federal ban would be the most effective tool to combat the spread of the drugs, because the DEA is more nimble when it comes to dealing with such issues.
“Ultimately, the DEA has to be involved,” she said. “My hope is that it will become the law of the land.” Bath salts can be smoked, injected or snorted, causing heart palpitations, loss of appetite and sleep deprivation. Experts say they can also cause strong hallucinations. The drug has long been popular in Europe, but has become more common in the United States among those looking for a cheap high. The Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association, which supports the ban, said in a statement that the Legislature’s action will save lives. “Synthetic drugs came onto the Pennsylvania scene quickly, and it is good to see just how quickly the General Assembly responded,” said association President Edward M. Marsico, the Dauphin County district attorney. “Our concern was the longer we wait, the more likely kids would die.”
via : The Morning Call
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