They go by names like “Meow, Meow,” “Barely Legal,” and “Zoom,” but U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said these synthetic drugs, marketed as bath salts, are now illegal.
Connecticut law enforcement officials joined Blumenthal Tuesday in praising the federal legislation banning synthetic marijuana like “K2” and bath salts that give users an amphetamine-like high.
Use of the synthetic drugs is spreading at “epidemic-like” proportions. There have been 50 reported instances of violence and assaults in the last six months related to synthetic drugs, he said.
Though these drugs have warning labels that read “Not for human consumption,” they are snorted, smoked, eaten, and injected. They are not actually intended to bathe in, Blumenthal said.
“These are not your grandmother’s bath salts,” Glastonbury Police Chief David Caron said.
“Use of synthetic drugs has skyrocketed in the last few years placing the public and police officers at increased risk of being confronted with often times paranoid, violent and unpredictable individuals,” he added.
The FDA’s Safety and Innovation Act, which is awaiting the president’s signature, bans 31 synthetic substances including bath salts to ensure that making, selling and distributing those products is punishable by 20 years in prison or a $1 million fine or both, Blumenthal said.
Synthetic drugs, sold at many convenience stores and online, were banned in Connecticut last October, but without the federal legislation, manufacturers and distributors of these drugs were able distribute them across state borders. Now that won’t be tolerated, Caron said.
“I think that we can show that we will react quickly moving forward so that we can in fact attack these issues as they arise in the future,” he said.
But the federal legislation, which passed with bipartisan support, leaves a lot to the imagination.
As synthesized drugs become illegal, their manufacturers tweak their compounds and ingredients in an attempt to keep their drugs legal, Dr. Charles McKay, a medical toxicologist from Hartford Hospital, said.
“You’re intent is you’re trying to get a drug that’s a hallucinogen, a stimulant, or a narcotic out there and skirt the DEA’s scheduling and requirements; you can’t do that,” McKay said.
So how will subtle manipulations in the drugs be controlled by law? How will upcoming synthetic drugs be controlled? How will the mislabeling of products, for example as “bath salts” be handled in the future?
“We don’t know,” Caron admitted.
What Caron was sure of, is that convenience stores throughout the state can expect sporadic, undercover compliance checks by police officers who will attempt to purchase the synthetic drugs if they are being sold.