Pennsylvania Lawmakers vote to ban bath salts, fake pot

HARRISBURG—

— The state Senate gave final approval Wednesday to legislation banning so-called bath salts, synthetic marijuana, for example k2 incense, and the hallucinogenic plant known as salvia divinorum.

The 50-member chamber voted unanimously to outlaw 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 prohibit resemble baking soda and are typically sold at convenience stores, head shops and on the Internet. A single dose can cost as little as $20.

Law enforcement officials and legislators in states 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 they contain. Penalties for sale and possession will be addressed in separate legislation, said Sen. Elder Vogel, R-Lawrence, who sponsored the bill.

Penalties probably will range from probation for casual 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 incense” and “Spice,” has also been outlawed by colleges and military organizations, she said.

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