The S.C. Board of Health and Environmental Control has reclassified three substances that are commonly known as “bath salts,” and five substances used to make synthetic marijuana as what is known as schedule I controlled substances.
State law authorizes the DHEC Board to designate a substance as a controlled substance in this state if the federal government has issued the same designation,” said Carl Roberts, general counsel for DHEC.
“With the board’s vote today, the state’s designation of these substances mirrors the federal designation,” Roberts said. “This will allow state and local law enforcement officers to deal with the issue, as it is illegal to manufacture, distribute, possess, import or export these substances.”
For a month, state officials have been moving towards a ban on synthetic drugs. After much back-and-forth, they finally got what they wanted Friday after a ban was issued by the federal government.
The Drug Enforcement Administration officially classified three chemicals (Mephedrone, methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) and Methylone) used to make the compounds known as “bath salts” and synthetic marijuana as “Schedule 1,” meaning they can no longer be sold or possessed.
The drugs have been spreading across the state in the past year, legally sold in convenience stores. “Bath salts” are a stimulant that can be snorted or injected as an alternative to cocaine. Synthetic marijuana, often sold as “K2” or “Spice,” is supposed to mimic the effect of weed.
However, health experts warned their unpredictable nature made them more dangerous than the real drugs. Over 100 cases in South Carolina required medical attention and synthetic marijuana was blamed in the death of an Anderson University basketball player earlier this month.
State officials have been trying to ban the drug for more than a month, partly in response to pressure from legislators who are out of session until January, but South Carolina’s health agency could not issue a permanent ban without legislative approval or federal government order.
The Department of Health and Environmental Control will meet by conference call Monday to make the federal move match state law and to allow law enforcement to immediately begin arresting people for selling it.
Many local governments across the state have already banned the drugs, notably the cities of Columbia and Florence, along with Greenville and Spartanburg counties.
The Legislature is expected to make the ban a part of permanent state law members they return next year.