TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator John Girgenti (D-Passaic) known as “Pamela’s Law” that would criminalize the possession and sale of products containing “bath salts,” was cleared out of the Senate Law & Public Safety Committee today.
“’Bath salts,’ which are frequently marketed as ‘cocaine substitutes,’ are clearly dangerous and can be far too easily purchased online or in retail stores,” said Girgenti. “The more the truth behind these products masquerading as ‘bath salts’ comes out, the more banning these powerful chemicals makes sense. There’s only one reason people purchase these products, and that is to get high.”
The legislation, S2829, would be named in memory of Pamela Schmidt, a Rutgers student and resident of Warren Township, whose body was discovered on March 13, 2011 in the basement of her boyfriend’s parent’s home in Cranford. According to newspaper articles, Schmidt’s boyfriend, who has been charged with her alleged murder, may have been using “bath salts.”
Last month, the Attorney General banned the manufacturing, distribution, and possession of six chemicals that are typically used to make “bath salts.” The order, however, is only in effect for 270 days or until an administrative regulation is enacted, whichever occurs first.
Girgenti’s legislation would permanently make it a crime to manufacture, distribute or dispense, or possess or have under one’s control with intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense products containing those chemicals. In cases where the amount involved is one ounce or more, it would be treated as a second degree crime, with possible penalties of five to ten years in jail and a $150,000 fine. In cases where the amount is less than one ounce, it would be treated as a third degree crime, with possible penalties of three to five years imprisonment, a $15,000 fine, or both. The unauthorized possession of products containing those chemicals without the intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense the products would be a third degree crime if one ounce or more is involved. If less than one ounce is involved, it would be fourth degree crime, with possible penalties of up to 18 months imprisonment, a $10,000 fine, or both.
The use of these products, which are believed to be highly addictive, has been associated with increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, agitation, hallucinations, extreme paranoia, delusions, and suicidal thoughts. Twenty-seven member states of European Union and several other countries have banned the chemicals commonly found in the designer drug. In the United States ten states have enacted legislation to ban “bath salts”, and legislation is pending in 24 others.
The legislation now moves to the full Senate.