State health board outlaws bath salts, synthetic marijuana

The mind-altering drugs known as bath salts and synthetic marijuana are now illegal everywhere in South Carolina.

The board that oversees the state Department of Health and Environmental Control took action Monday, following the lead of federal officials last week.

The DHEC board's action means any person in the state who possesses bath salts or synthetic marijuana can now be arrested and face a prison term or fine.

The board held an emergency meeting Monday, specifically for the purpose of outlawing the synthetic stimulants that produce a high comparable to cocaine.

The board added five substances used in the manufacture of fake pot and three chemicals found in bath salts to the state's list of Schedule I controlled substances.

Schedule I drugs are defined as those with no legitimate medical use and with high potential for abuse and addiction, such as LSD and Ecstasy.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration made the chemicals used in bath salts and fake marijuana illegal on the federal level last Friday, but South Carolina still had to take similar action on its own, to allow state and local police to enforce the ban.

DHEC officials say they consider the synthetic stimulants a threat to public health.

"So that's why the DEA has taken the action it has taken on the federal level and also why we are certainly moving to address these substances in the part of our response to what has become an emerging issue and certainly a major concern to us," said DHEC spokesman Adam Myrick.

Myrick said some people have had what he called catastrophic reactions to the drugs, and health officials have blamed the chemicals used in fake pot for the death of a 19-year-old student athlete in Anderson County earlier this month.

For being on the Schedule I controlled substance list, the penalty for possession of bath salts and synthetic marijuana in South Carolina is up to 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Until they were outlawed, small containers of bath salts had been available at some convenience stores around the state, marketed under names such as "Purple Wave", "Bliss" and "Vanilla Sky", for as little as $25.