DHEC takes action on bath salts and synthetic marijuana

COLUMBIA, SC (WCSC) - State and local law enforcement can now begin the crack down on designer drugs like bath salts and synthetic marijuana.

Last week, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency declared chemicals used in these drugs as a controlled substance making them illegal to possess or sell. But only federal agencies could make arrests until now.

On Monday, South Carolina's Board of Health and Environmental Control voted to adopt these federal designations giving local authorities the green light to enforce the ban.

The S.C. Board of Health and Environmental Control reclassified three substances that are commonly known as "bath salts," and five substances used to make synthetic marijuana as schedule I controlled substances.

"State law authorizes the DHEC Board to designate a substance as a controlled substance in this state if the federal government has issued the same designation," said Carl Roberts, general counsel for DHEC.

Roberts said the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration listed three substances often marketed as "bath salts," but actually ingested as psychoactive drugs, as schedule I controlled substances effective Oct. 21.

The three substances are mephedrone, methylone and methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV). 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. The five substances commonly used in synthetic marijuana have previously been classified by the DEA as schedule I controlled substances.

"With the board's vote today, the state's designation of these substances mirrors the federal designation," Roberts said. "This will allow state and local law enforcement officers to deal with the issue, as it is illegal to manufacture, distribute, possess, import or export these substances. These chemicals have been found by the DEA to pose an imminent hazard to public safety and health."

Schedule I status is reserved for those substances with a high potential for abuse, no accepted use for medical treatment in the U.S. and a lack of accepted safety guidelines for use of the drug under medical supervision. South Carolina law states that anyone convicted of the possession, manufacture or distribution of a schedule I controlled substance is guilty of a felony and on first offense is subject to not more than five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000, with more severe penalties for subsequent offenses.

For more information about controlled substances, including a current list, visit the DEA's website at: http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/schedules/.

Copyright WCSC 2011. All rights reserved. Some information provided by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.