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House Bans "Bath Salts" and K2

Congress passes a sweeping law banning a range of controversial synthetic drugs.

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K2 is among the drugs now banned. Photo via

By Luke Walker

12/09/11

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Congress voted yesterday to ban a range of synthetic drugs, commonly known as "bath salts," "K2" and "plant food." The substances, designed to mimic street drugs like methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana, have been implicated in some well-publicized meltdowns recently. Rep. Charlie Dent (R, PA) says, "there's been a sharp increase in the number of new reports detailing horrific stories of individuals high on synthetic drugs." The bill also expands the power of the DEA, by allowing the agency to unilaterally place temporary bans on new drugs for up to three years, while investigating their possible dangers—a move designed to counter the breakneck development of new synthetic drugs. Most of the dissenters were Democrats, concerned that the sweeping bill might hamper drug research to cure diseases like Parkinson’s. The drugs have been designated to the highly-restricted Schedule I, and join the already-lengthy list of banned substances in the US. Some may see the bill as a backward step by Washington in the face of growing support for drug policy reform—up to 77% of Americans favor liberalizing existing drug laws. Arrests and incarceration for drug-related offenses have grown by 22% since 1980. In 1980, 1,840,400 Americans were incarcerated for drug-related crimes; by 2009 that number had jumped to 7,225,800.

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