A statement yesterday from State Senate President Steve Pierce proudly announced that the Senate passed a House bill against "bath salts" with a 28-0 vote, and it was sent straight to Governor Jan Brewer.
That's great, except for a bill touted as an effort to "keep dangerous synthetic drugs out of the hands of users," it doesn't do that.
"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 it sent to the governor.
But the number of chemicals that can be used to make the mixtures commonly referred to as "bath salts" is "staggering," according to Thomas Wright III, a Boca Raton, Florida-based attorney who specializes in cases involving these substances.
"To suggest they're putting a ban on bath salts is dumbing down the general public," Wright tells New Times.
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.
Most people have probably never heard of any of these -- naphthylpyrovalerone and methoxymethcathinone, for example, are two of the new substances added to the list.
Consider a chemical known as "UR-144."
It's not on Arizona's list of banned substances used in products known as "herbal incense," which are supposed to mimic the effects of weed.
Even though it's very similar to other banned substances, not only is this one legal, but you can also buy it straight off the Internet and have it delivered to your door.
That one may be on the next piece of "emergency" legislation to ban more chemicals in the state, or the one after that.
But the concepts of "bath salts" or "herbal incense" still remain -- legally speaking.
"I don't see any reasonable way to legislate against everything that's going to come out," Wright says. "Every time you legislate against a particular product, you have to get law enforcement primed to enforce it, and you have to create the ability to test for it."
Imagine that conversation with the cops: "What's in the bag, son?" "Oh, just my methylenedioxymethcathinone."
As of now, that's legal. With Brewer's signature, it's not.
Unless the legislature gets pretty crafty in writing up the laws, the products known as "bath salts" aren't going anywhere.
Further reading: New Times' cover story on the subject, "Why Snorting 'Bath Salts' Is Popular -- and Dangerous."
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