Governor’s signature criminalizes ‘bath salts’

Local legislator led charge against dangerous drug

DENVER – It’s now a crime in Colorado to buy or sell the synthetic drug known as “bath salts.”

Gov. John Hickenlooper signed the ban into law Thursday.

But it almost didn’t happen because of a last-minute fumble by the Legislature.

There was widespread support for the ban, sponsored by Rep. J. Paul Brown, R-Ignacio, and Sen. Joyce Foster, D-Denver. But the bill died the second-to-last day of the session – along with two dozen other bills – when the House of Representatives ground to a halt in a battle over civil unions for gay and lesbian couples.

The Senate resurrected the bill’s language the next day, pinning it to a criminal justice omnibus bill that made several changes to state statutes. Hickenlooper signed the catch-all bill Thursday.

“I’m just glad that we were able to amend it onto the omnibus bill,” Brown said, before leveling some choice words at bath salt dealers. “They are despicable. I hope they will leave Colorado.”

The bill makes it a misdemeanor to buy bath salts, and a felony to sell them.

Bath salts aren’t intended for use in the bath at all, but manufacturers used the term to avoid regulation.

In addition to criminal penalties, the bill imposes civil fines for anyone selling the drug and claiming it’s a bath product.

The drug is fairly new. It started showing up in Colorado head shops within the last few years.

Bath salts are cheap, highly addictive and dangerous, Hickenlooper said.

“This is a classic example of trying to nip something in the bud,” Hickenlooper said. “New drugs emerge on the market very rapidly, and I think we have to respond in kind.”

The omnibus bill also includes a study of drug sentencing to try to reserve prison terms for dealers, not addicts.

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