DEA moves against bath salts

The Drug Enforcement Administration announced Monday plans to add 10 new strands of "bath salts" to a list of banned substances, in the agency's latest effort to crack down on synthetic drugs.

The move "is necessary to avoid an imminent hazard to the public safety," the agency said in the Federal Register.

President Obama signed a federal ban of bath salts in July 2012, but regulators say some drug traffickers will tweak the chemical composition to get around the law, creating what is known as a synthetic drug.

Synthetic drugs mimic the effects of illegal drugs like bath salts and marijuana, experts say, but they are not explicitly outlawed until the DEA discovers the new strands and names them individually on its "Schedule I" list of controlled substances. At that point, the manufacturers can simply go back to the drawing board and create another synthetic version of the drug.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has taken the lead in Congress, introducing a bill that she says would stop this end-around process and aid regulators in fighting synthetic drugs. 

A Feinstein staffer says that the DEA's latest efforts to ban bath salts highlight the need for the Protecting Our Youth from Dangerous Synthetic Drugs Act that she introduced last summer, because he says it would make it easier to arrest drug traffickers that make synthetic drugs.
According to the staffer, the DEA has banned 27 synthetic drugs over the last three years.

The bill would preemptively ban synthetic drugs before they are manufactured, so federal regulators aren't playing catch up with new drugs, the staffer said.

“This bill gives law enforcement the necessary tools to prosecute and bring to justice individuals who produce and distribute unregulated synthetic drugs,” Feinstein has said previously.