Pubdate: Sun, 30 Oct 2011 Source: Times and Democrat, The (SC) Copyright: 2011, The Times and Democrat Contact: http://www.thetandd.com/ Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/1872 Author: Richard Walker, T&D Staff Writer STORES ON NOTICE: 'BATH SALTS' WILL LEAD TO DRUG CHARGES They're said to cause psychotic episodes and belligerent behavior well beyond a hit of cocaine. And now the synthetic drugs labeled as "bath salts" can lead to a prison sentence. "As soon as the emergency law was passed by DHEC, we went out to all of our convenience stores," said Commander Ronda Bamberg of the Orangeburg County Sheriff's Office. "All of them had already pulled it from their shelves." On Oct. 21, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration classified what authorities call synthetic cocaine and marijuana as illegal drugs. If a drug becomes illegal under federal law, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control can make it illegal under state law, too. It followed the DEA within days. Marketers have called the chemicals "bath salts," selling them mostly through convenience stores. Authorities call them dangerous, saying they can lead to rapid heartbeat, extremely belligerent behavior and even death. There are cases law enforcement officials have dealt with here they believe may be tied to the chemical. Toxicology tests are being run to verify the use. "It gives you a huge high, like meth," Bamberg said. "This is going on all over the country." First Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe applauded local law enforcement for ensuring the products are no longer sold. "The county's been going out this week checking shops for this drug, to see who still has it on their shelves," Pascoe said. "I'm pleased to see the Orangeburg County Sheriff's Office and the Orangeburg Department of Public Safety are keeping up with this and taking a proactive stance. It's a serious narcotic." Pascoe said some counties in the state had already enacted ordinances against the chemicals prior to the statewide ban this week. While some counties have offered a grace period, Orangeburg has not. "I'm very pleased to see Sheriff (Leroy) Ravenell is not giving that grace period," Pascoe said. "Some places are offering a 15-day grace period. But they've (business owners) had plenty of time to take it off their shelves." The federal government has reclassified the three chemicals that make up the bath salts and the five that make up synthetic marijuana as controlled substances. As a result, the chemical can no longer be legally shipped or mailed, preventing potential users from placing an order over the Internet. Within the city limits, Orangeburg Department of Public Safety officers have been instructed to look at businesses that might carry the product. "We'll be monitoring convenience stores and other possible outlets to make sure they are conforming to the statute," ODPS Capt. Ed Conner said. According to officials, there has been some confusion about the difference between genuine bath salts and controlled substances. "We're not talking Epsom salt here," Bamberg said. "We had two locations that are not sure if they were the salts, the illegal substances. We've sent it off for testing and they've agreed to pull it off their shelves until we find out." According to the DHEC website: "Products that have long been used for bathing and are available in the health/beauty sections of national retail chains do not contain these chemicals." Any business owner uncertain as to what a product may potentially contain can call DHEC at 803-898-DHEC (3432). No arrests have been made as of Friday. But a store employee or individual found to be in possession of the bath salts will be charged, police say. "They will be charged with possession with intent to distribute," Bamberg said. "They've been put on public notice." - --- MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.