Bath-salts bill among last to be signed

Gov. Bobby Jindal concluded his review of measures from the 2011 regular legislative session Wednesday by signing into law a bill criminalizing hallucinogenic substances sold as bath salts.

The governor ended up signing 420 bills passed by lawmakers during the session which ended June 23. He vetoed 18 bills.

The state operating budget was the session’s primary focus, but other bills also shared the stage and sparked battles over whether to retain a historic black university in New Orleans and whether to lower the state’s cigarette tax.

As a result of the session, the University of New Orleans no longer will be part of the LSU system. Several dozen military families will receive a monetary benefit for the loss of their loved ones in the war on terrorism.

The governor nixed the creation of a new levee district in Vermilion Parish, the renewal of a 4-cent cigarette tax and a tax break on bottled water purchases.

The cigarette tax renewal resurfaced and will go before voters in October as part of a constitutional amendment.

Jindal traveled to Jena on Wednesday to sign the final piece of legislation, House Bill 12 by state Rep. Ricky Templet, R-Gretna.

HB12 expands the encyclopedia of chemicals that are banned as controlled dangerous substances in Louisiana. The targeted chemicals are used to create so-called bath salts and synthetic marijuana.

“This new law allows police to stay one step ahead of these criminals by outlawing chemical compounds that even resemble the components in these dangerous drugs,” Jindal said in a prepared statement.

The crackdown on fake bath salts began in January when the Jindal administration ordered the products to be pulled from store shelves.

Before then, the products were sold legally under a variety of names, including “Ivory Wave,” “Ocean,” “White Dove” and “Hurricane Charlie.”

Poison hotline calls triggered the confiscations. More than 150 calls related to bath salts were logged between September 2010 and January 2011.

The bath salts reportedly cause hallucinations and suicidal thoughts when they are snorted, smoked or injected.

The Jindal administration said 12 people are believed to have died in the United States from the use of bath salts.

State Police spokesman Lt. Doug Cain said the January crackdown made an impression on the convenience stores and head shops that were selling the bath salts.

“From our perspective, it certainly made an impact on those businesses that chose to carry them,” he said. “Overall, we saw a reduction (in sales).”

The Jindal administration characterized HB12 as a permanent ban.

The legislation also adds chemicals to the list of controlled dangerous substances.

Cain said drug manufacturers were using different chemicals to make the bath salts and packaging them under new names.

“This law gives us a tool to go out to do proactive enforcement,” he said.

Louisiana is not alone in banning the products.

Indiana and Pennsylvania are among 20 states to outlaw the fake bath salts.

Late last month, a months-long investigation by the federal government resulted in 10 arrests and the seizure of $2 million in bath salts.

The investigation tracked the shipment of the products from Washington state to New York head shops.