How's That Bath Salts Ban Working? Cops Say Gilbert Man Possibly on Substance Was "Out of Control," Punching, Threatening to Kill Officers

Last month, Governor Jan Brewer signed emergency legislation that was passed quickly through the Legislature, with the intent on banning the substances known as "bath salts."

We informed you the legislation wouldn't work.

Now, an "out of control" Gilbert man was arrested yesterday after destroying his family's home, attacking and threatening to kill police officers, and even grabbing for one cop's gun belt before receiving a Taser blast, police say.

Gilbert police Sergeant Bill Balafas tells New Times that 27-year-old Peter Chemali's family is thinking bath salts are to blame.

Gilbert police showed up to the house around 6 p.m. yesterday, after Chemali's family reported he was destroying the inside of the house and thought he was on drugs.

Balafas says one officer described the house as "looking like it was ransacked."

The first officer who arrived at the house -- who was alone -- confronted Chemali in the driveway, where police say Chemali attacked him.

While Chemali was fighting the officer, the second cop showed up -- seeing the fight and Chemali go for his gun belt -- and successfully deployed his Taser at Chemali, Balafas says.

Chemali wasn't quite done, as Balafas says officers described him as acting "outrageous" and threatening to kill the officers who were trying to handcuff him.

Chemali was taken to a hospital for suspected bath salts ingestion, before being hauled off to jail on a few charges, including aggravated assault on a police officer.

The officer allegedly attacked by Chemali was treated at a hospital for injuries to his face, hand, knees, elbow, and back sustained during the fight, but he's since been released.

It's not certain that Chemali was using substances known as bath salts but he certainly could have been -- even doing so legally, despite the governor signing legislation heralded as a "ban" on the drugs.

"To suggest they're putting a ban on bath salts is dumbing down the general public," Boca Raton, Florida-based attorney Thomas Wright III told New Times shortly before Brewer signed the legislation.

"Bath salts," for those joining late, is a name given to any number of synthetic drugs sold legally -- typically at your neighborhood head shop -- that are meant to be a legal way to get a high similar to amphetamines.

The legislature previously identified 30 chemicals that could be used to make the "bath salts"-type mixtures, and dropped another eight substances on the bill the governor signed last month.

Wright couldn't even make an estimate as to how many chemicals could be used to create similar effects to what's been banned, and the makers of these chemicals are generating new substances all the time -- and selling them on the Internet.

Again, it's not known whether Chemali was actually on one of these substances, or whether it was an illegal or illegal chemical.

Either way, there's no immediate way for police to tell if the synthetic chemicals in any given mixture of bath salts is illegal.

It requires very expensive lab testing to find out what these chemicals actually are, and what street cop would actually know whether a big bag of methoxymethcathinone is legal? (It isn't, as of last month.)

News reports have still shown up since the "ban" about people acting like total weirdos on bath salts, so it doesn't look like that emergency legislation was a resounding success.

Further reading: New Times' cover story on the subject, "Why Snorting 'Bath Salts' Is Popular -- and Dangerous."

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley