BANGOR, Maine (NEWS CENTER) --- Throughout the summer of 2011, bath salts caused many problems here in Bangor and around the northeast. Now leaders in Washington want to pass new federal laws to help curb use of the drugs.
Bath salts are man-made amphetamines that can bring powerful hallucinations to those who take them. The Maine Legislature recently made it a felony to deal bath salts in Maine and lawmakers on Capitol Hill now want to take that trend nationwide.
House Bill 1254 would amend existing law to ban 23 compounds used in bath salts. It recently passed in the U.S. House of Representatives. If it becomes a law, there would be federal penalties for using and dealing bath salts.
Sellers would stand the risk of going to jail for up to 20 years.
Congressman Mike Michaud co-sponsored the bill. He feels that having those penalties might help curb trafficking of the drugs especially since bath salts are currently legal in many states.
"This is extremely important to give our federal law enforcement, our local law enforcement...and state law enforcement folks the tools they need," he said.
"These drugs are very...very dangerous," said Bangor Police Chief Ron Gastia, whose department responded to more than 400 incidents involving the drug in Bangor this year, "They're unpredictable and we were behind the eight ball on these and we were trying to play catch up with these particular drugs. This bill if it finally passes through the Senate then it will give us some added teeth."
Gastia added that while many people are getting bath salts from dealers here in Maine, those dealers are continuing to get the drugs from sources outside of the state.
Supporters of the bill in Washington are hoping to get it signed into law by the end of 2011.