Responding to rapidly-growing concerns from law enforcement agencies, the medical profession, the general public, and recent evidence that its use in Delaware has been exploding, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell declared an immediate ban on the designer drug known as “bath salts.”
Markell made the announcement in his Wilmington office Friday, holding the emergency order signed just a few minutes earlier by Secretary of State Jeffrey Bullock.
“In recent days it became clear that this problem had gotten so bad, so quickly that we’re taking an unprecedented interim measure to get these drugs off the market, out of stores and out of people’s hands,” Markell said.
Bath salts are often smoked, snorted or injected and can cause hallucinations, extreme paranoia, agitation and violent episodes. Because they were legal – until now — bath salts were permitted to be sold everywhere, but were more common in places such as tobacco shops, gas stations and head shops.
Markell said the drugs were making people sick, suicidal, and “very, very violent.” According to Markell, police and medical professionals have seen an explosion in the use of bath salts in Delaware in recent weeks. Where it was almost non-existent a couple of months ago, Markell said hospitals are now seeing several users a day. And police departments are reporting an alarming number of assaults and disturbances involving people using the drugs.
The News Journal reported Friday that police are investigating whether David Salasky, charged in the death of New Castle County Lt. Joseph Szczerba, was under the influence of bath salts during the Sept. 16 stabbing. Asked if Szczerba’s death led to the emergency order, Markell said the wheels were already in motion.
State officials were able take this unprecedented action thanks to a little known, but very powerful provision of Delaware law that gives the Secretary of State the ability, on an emergency basis, to ban dangerous substances.
“This is an action we don’t take lightly,” Bullock said. “But given the increased danger these drugs are posing to our community, I think everyone agreed they are actions we should take now and do so without delay.”
According to state law, the emergency ban will be in effect for 120 days, long enough, officials say, for the state legislature to enact permanent laws when it reconvenes in January.
According to law enforcement officials, possession of the drug will be treated as a misdemeanor, while the intent to distribute the substance will be prosecuted as a felony.
Pennsylvania and New Jersey have already banned bath salts.