House Votes to Ban 'Spice,' 'Bath Salts'

Synthetic drugs mimic effects of cocaine, marijuana.

ByABC News
December 8, 2011, 4:53 PM

Dec. 8, 2011 — -- The House today voted to ban a variety of synthetic drugs, including "spice," and "bath salts," that had previously been sold legally in stores throughout the country.

The Synthetic Drug Control Act would add over 30 synthetic drugs that mimic the effects of marijuana and cocaine to Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, making them illegal to manufacture or dispense. It would also grant the Drug Enforcement Agency more authority to place temporary bans on potentially dangerous drugs as they are investigated.

The bill passed by a vote of 317-98; some Democrats argued the law would make it harder for scientists to obtain needed chemicals for medical research.

An ABC News investigation that aired on "20/20" earlier this year found that spice and bath salts, despite being linked to multiple deaths, were being sold to teenagers across the country with little to no oversight.

Watch a "20/20" report on spice and bath salts.

Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), who introduced the bill, said in a statement today that he was shocked when he first learned that these drugs were being sold legally in stores and online.

"I first learned about the dangers of new synthetic drugs after reading an email from a constituent whose son's life had nearly been destroyed by his abuse of synthetic marijuana or 'spice'," Rep. Dent said. "Following that initial contact, a growing number of local residents shared with me powerful stories involving their own abuse of synthetic drugs or the destructive impact these substances have had on loved ones."

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), proposed a national ban on the chemicals used in bath salts in February. In October, the DEA placed an emergency ban on the chemicals used in "bath salts," which mimic the effect of cocaine, calling them an "imminent hazard" to the public.

In the course of its investigation earlier this year, ABC News heard from drug treatment centers across the country that reported they had been flooded with teenage synthetic drug users.

"We've had some people show up who are complaining of chest pains so severe that they think they're having a heart attack," Louisiana Poison Control Center Director Dr. Mark Ryan told ABC News. "They think they're dying... They have extreme paranoia. They're having hallucinations. They see things, they hear things, monsters, demons, aliens."

The bill now moves to the Senate, where Rep. Dent said he is "hopeful" it will be passed quickly.

"I am confident banning the sale of dangerous synthetic drugs will help save lives in communities across the United States," said Dent.

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