Bath Salts and Synthetic Marijuana Felony in SC

By John Monk – [email protected]
By John Monk The Herald
bath saltsBath salts and synthetic marijuana,  which only last week could be bought in places like flea markets and  convenience stores across South Carolina, were Monday placed in the same  category as cocaine and heroin.
Now, anyone buying, selling or possessing such drugs — known as  Schedule I drugs — could be charged with a felony on first offense and  face a possible $5,000 fine and up to five years in prison.


The new state ban, effective immediately, came after a Monday  afternoon vote by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental  Control board. It follows federal bans on bath salts, announced Friday,  and synthetic marijuana, announced earlier this year.


“This will allow state and local law enforcement officers to deal with the issue,” said DHEC general counsel Carl Roberts.
Still to be determined is how much time stores and other outlets  will have to turn in these banned substances. But DHEC spokesman Adam  Myrick said anyone with the drugs should go ahead and “contact their  local law enforcement agency and make arrangements to turn them in.”
The State Law Enforcement Division will draw up guidance for local  law enforcement as to when to start making arrests so police agencies  statewide will follow a uniform policy, officials said.
Law enforcement and medical officials across the Midlands reacted  with enthusiasm, noting a growing problem with the drugs across the  state.
A 19-year-old Anderson University student athlete who died recently  had a chemical found in synthetic marijuana in his blood, according to  the Anderson County coroner. And in the Midlands, a man who killed a  taxi driver, then killed himself, was found to have synthetic marijuana  in his blood, officials said.
“There’s no question that bath salts have caused documented deaths,” Richland County Coroner Gary Watts said Monday.


Watts said his office is currently retesting some autopsy results  from young people who died mysteriously to see whether the now-banned  chemicals may have played a role in their deaths. Pathologists routinely  run drug scans on deaths from unknown causes, but the chemicals used in  the newly banned drugs are so new that Watts’ office didn’t have the  necessary testing protocols until recently, he said.
Bryan Fox, who runs an adolescent drug treatment program at  Palmetto Health hospitals, said he was pleased with DHEC’s action. Some  youths ages 15-19 have been admitted to his program with problems linked  to the newly banned drugs, he said.


“Young people tend to equate something that’s legal with being OK,” Fox said.
In reality, bath salts is the street name for a substance that  mimics the effects of methamphetamine. Law enforcement, medical  professionals and drug counselors have reported some users become  paranoid or suffer a rapid heart rate.
The synthetic marijuana, until Monday still legal under state law,  contains a substance similar to real marijuana, only more powerful in  some cases, Fox said.  Both can cause physical and mental problems, he  added.
Drug counselors say the danger in synthetic drugs comes from a lack  of consistency in how they are made. No one knows how much of which  chemicals they are ingesting or where those chemicals were made.


Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews, a former DEA agent, said he’s  glad DHEC and DEA have acted. “I know DEA doesn’t do anything like this  without it really being serious.”
And U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles said federal agents will be actively prosecuting bath salts and synthetic marijuana cases.

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