A tough new state law aims to help police and prosecutors in their battle on the designer drugs known as "bath salts."
The code changes mimic federal law, which recently put some of the first dealers in jail. Currently, undercover officers routinely purchase bath salts from stores or other dealers, only to have lab testing show them just outside the reach of state law. Police have had a tough time making arrests because many chemical formulas of bath salts are slightly different than those listed in the criminal code.
Blame manufacturers who routinely make subtle adjustments to the drugs' chemical formulas, but that should change on July 1. Next month, 200 more drugs join the list of banned substances after the General Assembly made the code more "generic."
After community protests and a war declaration from the United States attorney, there should no longer be an awareness problem for the synthetic drugs known as "bath salts." Getting them off the street is a stiffer challenge.
Augusta County Sheriff's Investigator Todd Lloyd said, "Stores here in the area and surrounding Augusta County may not be selling them at this moment, but the internet sales have picked up. And the internet sales have picked up where people can get them right at their house."
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said, "Manufacturers can't slip around the technical definition of what we now call bath salts. We were trying to avoid those sorts of loopholes."
Lloyd said, "Hopefully with the new laws coming into effect July 1, that's going to take care of about 90 percent of what we see here."
The Virginia code changes mirror tough federal laws, which have already seen success in the courts. And since much of the bath salts come from China, the job of going after manufacturers will also fall to the feds.
Lloyd stated, "Their arm is a little bit longer to reach out than what ours is. Without them, there's no way we could get to them."
The Augusta Sheriff's Office says it deals with bath salts-related cases three or four times a day. And in just the last week, they've been connected to a high-speed pursuit, and a driver slamming into a parked police car.