Indiana News

Senate Tries Again to Crack Down Bath Salts

Latest attempt would threaten retailers with license suspension


(photo courtesy DEA)

After two years of unsuccessful efforts to stop the manufacturers of synthetic drugs such as "bath salts," legislators are instead targeting the retailers who sell them.

A Senate committee has approved a bill to suspend merchants' retail licenses for one year if they're caught selling the drugs known variously as "bath salts," "spice," or an ever-shifting menu of other names.

In 2011, legislators banned an array of chemical compounds used in the drugs, only to find that manufacturers quickly tweaked the formulas so their drugs weren't covered. An attempt last year to ban the base molecule ran into the same problem -- State Police legal counsel Jordan Stover told the Senate Corrections Committee that manufacturers were on the phone asking police about the legality of their latest formulas before the bill had even reached then-Governor Mitch Daniels' desk.

The bill drafted by State Police and Attorney General Greg Zoeller shifts the approach to retailers. Senator Jim Merritt (R-Indianapolis), the bill's sponsor, says no retailer seriously believes drugs labeled "potpourri" or "bath salts" are really being used for that or any other legitimate purpose.

The bill would also codify a legal approach Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry has taken in charging retailers. It breaks loose from attempts to specify every possible compound to instead charge retailers with violating Indiana's lookalike drug law -- the law that allows charges against dealers who try to pass off flour as cocaine.

The committee voted 6-3 to send the bill to the Senate floor, with Senators Susan Glick (R-LaGrange), Karen Tallian (D-Portage) and Mark Stoops (D-Bloomington) voting no. Stoops says the law would essentially put retailers out of business for a criminal violation that's set at the level of a traffic ticket. And Tallian questions whether the law is specific enough for merchants to know they're breaking it.


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