Jan. 29--JACKSON -- The Senate passed a bill Friday that would make illegal the chemicals that turn simple bath salts into a hallucinogen.
The legislation was named after slain Tippah County Sheriff's Deputy DeWayne Crenshaw, who was fatally shot while responding to a call in early December.
The bill, which now goes to the House, was approved unanimously. Under the legislation, chemicals in the fake bath salts would be made Schedule 1 drugs just like heroin or LSD.
The penalty depends on the amount a person possesses, and having small amounts could be prosecuted as a felony or misdemeanor. The sale of the substance could result in 30 years in prison.
The bill bears Crenshaw's name because of the circumstances surrounding his death.
Marshall Fisher, director of the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, said Franklin Fitzpatrick, 26, who is accused in Crenshaw's death, has told law officers he was high on fake bath salts at the time.
Sen. Eric Powell, D-Corinth, who represents part of Tippah County, offered the amendment to name the bill after Crenshaw when he learned the connection.
"I understand the toxicology report has not come back, but that is what he admitted he was on," Powell said.
Sen. Bill Stone, D-Ashland, in whose district Crenshaw lived, said, "I think naming this bill is very appropriate for his memory and for his loved ones."
Sen. Sid Albritton, R-Picayune, chair of the Drug Policy Committee and former narcotics officer, said the main ingredient in the fake bath salts -- Cathinone derivatives -- is extremely dangerous.
He said eventually the drug leads to a bad episode, but even after that experience people still want to use it because it is addictive.
"It is just a matter of time before one of these teenagers takes it, and it is going to kill him," Albritton said. Fisher said the drug has been blamed for a death in Louisiana, where the substance already has been banned.
Albritton said the drug is similar to cocaine or methamphetamine.
It is being sold in convenience stores, particularly in Northeast Mississippi and the Gulf Coast, as bath salts. But it comes in a small package. Albritton had a package on the Senate floor Friday labeled "Lightning bolt."
The package, 20 milligrams, sold for $19.95, Albritton said. He then produced a 3-pound package of regular bath salts, which he said he bought for less than $5. He said the real bath salt would cost $136,000 if priced like the fake product.
He said he has heard instances of the chemical being placed in other products, such as plant food. But he said there is no reason to put the chemical in any product.
He said people are constantly searching for chemicals that affect the central nervous system either as a stimulant and depressant and trying to market them as legitimate products.
The legislation also would update the law passed last year to outlaw so-called synthetic marijuana, also known as spice, so that if the chemical composition is changed, the substance would still be illegal.
The legislation makes the substance illegal upon passage and the governor's signature.
Albritton said at this point anyone selling the substance knows what it does.
"I don't feel sorry for anybody selling this," he said. "They know exactly what they are doing."
By Bobby Harrison
Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, Tupelo (MCT)
Published: Saturday, January 29, 2011
Updated: Saturday, January 29, 2011 14:01