SAN DIEGO — Warning letters are being sent to nearly 100 businesses by the county district attorney and sheriff after both agencies announced Jan. 31 enforcement of the new law banning the sale of the dangerous designer drug “bath salts.”Makers of the so-called drug have disguised its intended use for bath salts, which have topped store shelves at retailers such as gas stations, liquor stores and convenience stores, but as of Jan. 1 the synthetic drugs became illegal to sell.
“In the beginning we were selling it — nobody told us there was something wrong with it,” said Jimmy Saco, owner of Z Market in Oceanside.
He said when he became aware of the dangers of the products that he and his wife pulled the synthetic drugs from their shelves, including the disguised-as-incense “Spice” that is sold in small jars and is supposed to provide a more intense high than marijuana.
Spice, also known as K2, has very dangerous side effects, including cardiac arrest, brain seizures, hallucinations and suicidal thoughts.
The other fake drug, sold as bath salts, is supposed to be like a methamphetamine, but with effects such as potent hallucinations, psychotic behavior, violence and extreme aggression that have left some users unable to be calmed down even after being given large doses of sedatives.
The bath salts are marketed with names such names as “Vanilla Sky,” “Bliss,” “Ivory Wave” and “Purple Wave.”
According to the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, there were two deaths in the county last year in which the key ingredient was in bath salts, Methylenedioxypyrovalerone, or MDPV, was detected with toxicology tests.
“We’re taking this action to let businesses know about the new law and penalties they could face,” District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said about the warning letters
Assembly Bill 486 became effective Oct. 9, 2011, which made it illegal to sell the synthetic stimulant commonly referred to as bath salts.
An emergency ban on several ingredients in the synthetic drug disguised as incense, Spice, also went into effect, however newer versions were created with different ingredients and sold with a label that says it is in compliance with the DEA ban.
Assemblyman Ben Hueso, a San Diego Democrat who authored AB 486, said there is no way to know what’s in these synthetic drugs.
He is working on part two of the bill, which will be a blanket order banning all forms of Spice and also banning the use and possession of both it and bath salt drugs.
The North Coastal Prevention Coalition/Vista Community Clinic sent out dozens of letters last year to businesses in collaboration with law enforcement to encourage local retailers to stop selling the synthetic drugs and inform them of their dangers.
Many of the retailers were also visited personally to see if they were selling the drugs, which are believed to target youth by their colorful packaging and fruit flavors, and sometimes candy-aisle location.
Erica Leary, MPH, program manager for the coalition and clinic said that the stores were revisited last month and only two of the 17 stores in Oceanside and Vista that were found selling the fake drugs in the summer had pulled them from their shelves.
Saco was one of those storeowners and said he pulled the products about eight months ago.
But it wasn’t the first time he pulled the products — he said he actually brought the Spice back after he heard that the government banned it and a new version was brought out that was allowed.
“Now it was almost like selling a cigarette because it had a sticker,” he said.
The other store that complied with requests made by the coalition and law enforcement and stopped selling the dangerous products was Wisconsin Market in Oceanside.