Pubdate: Sat, 14 May 2011 Source: Williamsport Sun-Gazette (PA) Copyright: 2011 Williamsport Sun-Gazette Contact: http://www.sungazette.com/asp/forms/letters_form.asp Website: http://www.sungazette.com/ Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/3630 Author: Jim Runkle, Williamsport Sun-Gazette DA PLEADS FOR BATH SALTS BAN LOCK HAVEN - Clinton County District Attorney Michael Salisbury has asked the county for an ordinance banning the sale and use of "bath salts" commonly consumed as a legal but highly dangerous synthetic drug. Clinton County may join a number of counties looking for a temporary solution to a growing problem to fill the gap while the state grapples to create a more permanent, statewide ban. "In my three-and-a-half years in office, this is only the second time I've felt it necessary to approach the board of commissioners on an issue," Salisbury said. "I am saddened by what I am seeing. (Thursday) evening, we had a high-speed chase on Interstate 80 that eventually involved dozens of officers and led to the injury of one officer, along with risking the lives of many others and the public." Salisbury addressed the commissioners at their meeting Thursday to raise the issue and to ask for a temporary solution while the proposed statewide solution - in the form of legislation - makes its way through the Pennsylvania General Assembly. Bath salts - marketed under exotic names like Vanilla Sky, Ivory Wave and Tranquility - are sold at many shops across the state. The drugs are legal and sell for about $40 for a half-gram, and police can't cite anyone for selling or purchasing it. But that could change in the near future. The commissioners spoke strongly in favor of the action, then turned the matter over to Lewis G. Steinberg to view a sample ordinance from Scranton and determined if such a law could stand constitutional muster. If the county uses the Scranton model, any business caught selling the product in this region could ultimately be forced to close. Salisbury highlighted his remarks with details of an alleged aggravated assault that occurred in Lock Haven on Wednesday evening that led to the arrest of a Mill Hall man on charges of aggravated assault, recklessly endangering lives, fleeing police and other misdemeanor and summary charges. Salisbury said there were clear indications that the arrest had its beginnings in the abuse of the salts. Citing the highly dangerous high-speed chase Wednesday evening, the district attorney said he was taking the unusual step of asking for the creation of a county ordinance as a stop-gap measure to prevent the abuse and allow legal action to occur while legislators move their bill through to the governor's desk. Salisbury said he was taking this step because it would be problematic just approaching the city for an ordinance. "If we did that, we'd only be pushing it out to Castanea, or Flemington or Bald Eagle Township,' he said. The legislation to ban the sale of "bath salts" in Pennsylvania has received unanimous support and now goes to the House of Representatives for approval. Officials said the bill is being fast-tracked because of the growing number of incidents involving the drugs, which mimic the effects of cocaine and methamphetamines. "Hopefully, by the end of the month, this action will be moot," Salisbury said. The drugs are said to cause extreme paranoia, hallucinations and erratic behavior. Senate Bill 1006 would add Salvia Divinorum, Salvinorin A, Divinorin A, and synthetic marijuana, synthetic cocaine and synthetic heroin, more commonly referred to as concentrated bath salts, to the list of Schedule I controlled substances. "We're seeing it in the news every night," Commissioner Adam Coleman said. Commissioner Joel Long said of Salisabury's request, "If it's legal to do this, we will do it." Salisbury said he and other law enforcement officials have looked into the sales since the salts - and the crimes they seem to spark - have begun to grow. In Clinton County, he said, it appears that only one local business is marketing a substance that could be considered in a similar category. In this case, he said, a place on Hanna street offers a substance labeled "herbal" for $50 an ounce or $35 per half-ounce, and it appears as if this product is being abused in a similar manner as the bath salts. Local resident Tim Havener offered a different view, saying statewide or national bans on drug use rarely work and described the prosecutor's request as a "knee-jerk reaction ... as if banning it will just make it go away." Havener said the "war on drugs" represented "40 years of stupidity" and has failed again and again to make any sort of substantial stab at killing drug abuse. He also said that strict prohibitions don't achieve much more than removing government's ability to control the situation. "The problem of illegal drugs is something that won't ever be solved," Coleman replied, "but that doesn't mean that illegal drugs shouldn't be regulated." - --- MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.