Governor Jack Markell announced at a news conference today that Delaware has banned the dangerous stimulants commonly known "bath salts" now making them illegal in Delaware.
Early this afternoon, Secretary of State Jeff Bullock signed an "emergency rule" adding the compound of drugs known as "bath salts" to Delaware's Schedule I of Controlled substances, following a recommendation by the Controlled Substances Advisory Committee. The order will be in effect for 120 days, with a 60-day extension possible. That gives the Delaware General Assembly, which re-convenes in January 2012, enough time to pass legislation banning the drugs permanently.
Today's action empowers state law enforcement agencies to treat bath salts the same as other harmful illegal drugs, which means those who possess and, more importantly, those who sell bath salts will now face criminal penalties.
"These are not what people traditionally think of as bath salts that are added to a bath. This is a new designer drug sold in small vials or tins. People are getting sick, suicidal and very, very violent. These drugs are nasty and dangerous," said the Governor. "If you know someone who has been abusing "bath salts,' get them help," said Governor Markell. "If you have the drug in your home or business, take it to the nearest Delaware State Police Troop and turn it in."
image: Secretary Bullock"We are taking the unprecedented action of banning these drugs using a little known, but very powerful law, to immediately make them illegal to sell or possess," said Secretary Bullock. "It's an action we shouldn't take lightly, but given the growing danger these drugs pose to our community, it is an action we need to take without delay."
The Delaware Attorney General's Office says two drug-related crimes are now applicable for bath salts: (Simple) Possession, which is a Misdemeanor level crime and Possession with the Intent to Distribute, which is a Felony level crime. The baseline Possession with the Intent to Distribute charge carries a sentencing range of 0-8 years in prison, and the seriousness of the charge and the corresponding sentencing range increases when aggravating factors are present such as prior offenses, resisting arrest, or committing a drug crime near a school or park - in certain cases this charge can carry minimum mandatory jail time.
"We're working collaboratively with our law enforcement partners to quickly develop a game plan to enforce this ban and take specific action to ensure that these dangerous drugs are kept off the streets," said Brian Robertson, Deputy Attorney General.
Sen. Bethany Hall-Long, D-Middletown is currently developing legislation that will be introduced when the General Assembly returns in January.
"This designer drug became an issue in my district and I've been working with various stakeholders to develop legislation allowing us to make bath salts controlled substance as well as working with families on finding treatment options," Hall-Long said. "As a nurse I am all too aware of the negative consequence this has on our public's health and the injuries to patients who have used bath salts as well as their violent acts against nurses, police and other first responders".
An emergency room nurse at Christiana Hospital, Rep. Rebecca Walker has seen the effects bath salts have had on people and is working with the Attorney General's office to draft legislation permanently banning the substance.
"This phenomenon has popped up in the last few months and now it's become a daily problem in all three counties," said Rep. Walker, D-Middletown. "People have presented to all the emergency departments in the state under the influence of these bath salts and are so out-of-control and violent that they've injured nurses and EMS providers, making it difficult to provide the necessary treatment. My biggest concern is for members of the community who may be violently attacked. We can't wait until January to address this. Banning this substance is the right thing to do, and I'm grateful to everyone for taking action today."
Marketed under names such as "Ivory Wave", "Purple Wave", "Vanilla Sky" or "Bliss", these products are comprised of a class of chemicals which can mimic the effects of cocaine, LSD, MDMA and/or methamphetamine. The chemicals used to produce "bath salts" -- mephedrone, methylone, and methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) --have a high potential for abuse. The Federal Food and Drug Administration has not approved these chemicals for human consumption or for any medical use, and there is no oversight of their manufacture.