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Maryland moves to ban drugs known as 'bath salts'

Martin O'Malley

Public health authorities in Maryland are moving to impose a ban, starting as early as Sept. 1, on the sale of synthetic drugs known as "bath salts."

After a six-week inquiry, Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, secretary of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, on Thursday declared the drugs "dangerous" and asked for emergency regulations to add them to the state's Schedule 1 Controlled Dangerous Substances list.

DHMH investigators also found that, while the drugs are dangerous, their availability in Maryland is "low." Local health officials asked to check their jurisdictions reported that the drugs were found in 1 percent of the stores they visited.

Maryland joins a growing list of states that have enacted similar bans in recent years. Labeled as "bath salts" to sidestep federal laws, the drugs are being smoked, injected, snorted or eaten to produce effects similar to illegal drugs such as cocaine.

Users have developed cardiac and circulatory disturbances, agitation, delirium, paranoia and psychosis. Some have tried to hurt themselves and others, health officials said. In Maryland, state Poison Center officials are aware of 31 cases of "bath salts" poisoning, including one death.

Maryland State Police Superintendent Col. Terrence B. Sheridan applauded the pending ban. "This action will hopefully help us to prevent some of the tragedies already experienced in other states."

Gov. Martin O'Malley said, "We cannot afford to let these substances threaten our youth."

frank.roylance@baltsun.com

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