City of Columbia, Richland Co. looks to ban "bath salts," synthetic marijuana

Synthetic Marijuana / FILE

COLUMBIA (WACH) -- Columbia City Council has passed the first reading of a proposed ordinance that would ban "bath salts" and synthetic marijuana.

"Bath salts" are sold over the counter at many convenience stores and available on the internet, but not marketed for human consumption. However, these synthetics are proving to be as harmful as the real thing.

Councilwoman Belinda Gergel says,"With the lack of any ban in place by the state and by the feds, at this point, we have the ability to do this so that's what we're doing."

Richland County Council is currently reviewing a similar ban. According to County Councilman Seth Rose, who initially drafted the proposed ordinance, it's important for both governments to pass the ban to avoid consumer confusion.

The Drug Enforcement Administration says users have reported disorientation, extreme paranoia and violent episodes after ingesting the chemicals. Those results lead the DEA to temporarily outlaw possession and sale three synthetic stimulants as dangerous chemicals that pose an imminent hazard to public health.

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The DEA ban will last at least a year, during which the government will determine whether it should permanently control the stimulants - Ephedrine, MDPV and Methylone.

Synthetic marijuana, sold under brand names like K2, Spice, and Salvia Divinorum can also be dangerous.

"Basically, it's organic material, plant-like material that has chemicals on it to produce similar effects to marijuana," said Greenville County Deputy Matt Smith. Smith and Master Deputy Mike Decker said smokers take a hit because it produces a high similar to marijuana.

"Bath Salts" and synthetic marijuana have already been banned in at least Chesterfiled and Georgetown Counties in South Carolina. Municipalities across the country are also banning the products and Midlands attorney Todd Kincannon says they have the right to do so.

"The Controlled Substances Act allows local government to regulate in any area outside of ephedrine and this does not relate to that," Kincannon states.

"In Tennessee it's an illegal substance," Decker said. "In Missouri it's an illegal substance. In the state of Hawaii it's actually a felony."

Clemson University professor Dr. John Huffman, known on the streets by users as J.W.H., developed the chemicals while doing research back in the 90s. He said he never intended his formula to be used as a recreational drug.

It TMs dangerous because it is not monitored and there are no regulations of what goes in it, says Cecily Watkins, a prevention specialist with the Lexington Richland Alcohol Drug & Abuse Council.

Should synthetic drugs like "bath salts" and synthetic marijuana be banned because of the health danger the pose, or should they be legal since they are marked "not for human consumption"? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

Click here to read more about what is on Columbia City Council's agenda for Tuesday.