FRANKFORT — A Senate committee on Thursday approved a bill banning synthetic drugs commonly sold as "bath salts" while more horror stories emerged about their use.
House Bill 121 would ban the possession, trafficking or making of several related combinations of chemicals that go by street names such as "Hurricane Charlie" and "Red Dove." The drugs are sold on the Internet and at gas stations and other stores as small plastic bags of white powder, misleadingly labeled as bath salts, plant food or insect repellent.
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bill unanimously and placed it on the Senate consent calendar, virtually assuring its success. If the House concurs with minor changes made in the Senate, the bill would be sent to Gov. Steve Beshear for his signature or veto.
The drugs cause hallucinations and sometimes violent or suicidal behavior, said the bill's sponsor, Rep. John Tilley, D-Hopkinsville. They can be snorted, smoked or consumed with food or drink, Tilley said.
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According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the drugs often contain amphetamine-like chemicals, such as methylenedioxypyrovalerone, mephedrone and pyrovalerone, which can stimulate the brain and lead to addiction much as cocaine does.
"It produces a bad trip," Tilley told the committee. "And it's toxic; it's a poison. It's not a naturally occurring substance."
The lawmakers discussed an incident that happened late Monday on Interstate 24 in Marshall County. Police say a woman hallucinating after she allegedly took the drugs wandered along the highway with her two young children. Her 2-year-old son suffered a head injury and was found lying on the roadway.
A judge entered a not guilty plea on Cynthia Palmer's behalf on Wednesday to charges that include child endangerment, according to The Paducah Sun.
Sen. Robin Webb, D-Grayson, told lawmakers that two high school students in Perry County recently were hospitalized after using the drugs.
"It defies explanation," Webb said. "You would have to be somewhat suicidal to go down that path, I think. It's sort of like laying out a line of Drano and inhaling it into your body."
Throughout the legislative process this winter, HB 121 has been amended to add more chemicals that are derivatives of the drugs in question, as law enforcement gets reports on new varieties. The Senate committee added one more such chemical at the request of law enforcement, said Senate Judiciary Chairman Tom Jensen, R-London
In response to that, Sen. Dan Seum, R-Louisville, said he wondered about the many chemicals and drugs the General Assembly is trying to control to prevent their abuse by addicts.
Last year, the legislature banned a form of synthetic marijuana commonly referred to as "K2" or "Spice." This year, lawmakers have debated — but have not ultimately approved — a bill to require doctors' prescriptions for some cold and allergy medicines that can be used to make methamphetamines.
As fast as lawmakers act, the illicit chemists act faster, Seum said.
"These people seem to be able to take any and all ingredients and turn them into a bad substance," Seum said. "I wonder where we're headed with this. Am I going to walk into a store one of these days and find all of the shelves empty?"
Also Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved House Bill 308, which will require Kentucky to inform the FBI when people are adjudicated by courts as mentally defective. The FBI maintains the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which federally licensed gun dealers are required to consult before selling firearms. Under federal law, people adjudicated as mentally defective cannot buy a gun.
The committee took no action on another measure, House Bill 412, that would regulate the emerging "lawsuit-funding industry," in which companies advance money to cash-strapped plaintiffs to cover their living expenses in hopes of sharing in their courtroom paydays.
Jensen, the committee chairman, said senators are split over that bill and may not reach any consensus during this legislative session.