Bath Salts Pose Threat in Missouri

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JEFFERSON CITY - Synthetic drugs known as bath salts are gaining popularity in Missouri, and that concerns law enforcement. The drug is a synthetic substance like the controversial K2 and K3 drugs that were banned last year. Fulton Police Chief Steve Myers said his department is becoming more familiar with the salts.

"Well, technically it's a synthetic drug that is presently not illegal in the state of Missouri, but we're also seeing a lot of synthetic drugs on the market today that aren't illegal now. Most of all these packages say not for human consumption, but then that certainly doesn't stop people from using it," Myers said.

In Columbia, police said they are also getting reports of the drug.

"We are getting reports of people being under the influence of bath salts. Parents have called requesting the issue be investigated," said Sergeant Geoff Jones.

Both Myers and Jones said suspects under the influence of the drug are agitated and violent.

"They have been agitated and combative, sometimes displaying unexpected physical strength," said Jones.

According to Missouri Poison Control, the drug has the following side effects: violence, rapid heart rate, agitation, suicide, and death.

The drug is sold under names like: Ivory Wave, Bolivian Bath, Cloud Nine, and Blue Silk.

The drug can be taken by snorting it through the nose like cocaine or liquified and injected through a needle.

According to Myers, the drug can be eaten, but it doesn't hold the same effect. Bath salts are sold in head shops, smoke shops, truck stops and online. One gas station employee explained that he sees truck drivers come in asking for the drug because it's a stimulant.

Bath salts are growing in popularity, especially among young teens to adults in their mid 20s. Many states are starting to enact laws to ban the salts.

Now legislators in Missouri want to expand the existing bill to include banning bath salts.

Representative Ward Franz, R-West Plains, said bath salts are a problem in his home town, and constituents want it stopped. He also said that the new law should be broad enough to outlaw not only bath salts, but other synthetic drugs as well.

"We listed the compound that we know of that the highway patrol lab discovered and we've also expanded the definition of and included the definition of synthetic cannabinoids or marijuana we include some terms like "inwells" and "analogues" which to the average person doesn't make sense, but to a chemist when you tweak the compound by one molecule you make analogue and that's how you get around the law."

This new bill is causing some concern for the owners of Bocomo Bay, a store that does not sell bath salts because it feels it is not safe for customers, and the small amount in the packet is not practical for actual use as a bath salt.

Store owners said the new bill would hurt business because it is broad and not specific to one type of substance.

House Bill 641 expands Missouri's existing synthetic drug laws that would include bath salts. It also has words "cannabanoids," "inwells," and "analogues," all terms that make the bill broad enough to include most synthetic drugs. Sponsors said even if a chemist tweaks a molecule changing the chemical makeup, under House Bill 641, it still would remain illegal.

House Bill 641 passed in the House Tuesday by a vote of 143-13. If Governor Nixon signs it, the law takes effect August 28, 2011.

You can view the bill here.