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Utah lawmakers still chasing spice and bath salt chemists

Published November 19, 2012 10:12 pm

Crime • During committee hearing, legislators favor move to add more chemicals to state ban.
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Lawmakers hope to catch up with chemists who are getting around the state's spice and bath salt ban by creating similar products with different components not listed in the law.

Legislators proposed new chemical versions of spice and bath salts for inclusion on the state list of controlled substances during an interim Health and Human Services committee meeting Wednesday. The committee unanimously approved a proposal to add those spice and bath salt analogs during the upcoming 2013 general session.

Spice and bath salts first became illegal in Utah two years ago. But drug producers are devising new formulas for similar products with components not identified on the list, and adding those new components to the law is becoming an annual tradition on the hill.

"When I first passed that legislation two years ago, I said on the floor that this is going to be annual deal for the foreseeable future," said Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville, who is not on the interim committee but is leading the charge to ban the harmful substances with its co-chair, Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield.

During the 2011 session, law enforcement found copies of the new legislation during a large spice raid as drug makers sought "to stay ahead of the game," Ray said. The Legislature updated the list again during the 2012 session.

Officials may identify even more versions of spice or bath salts between now and the spring, Ray said.

When potential profits are so great, chemists are motivated to change a molecule here or there to keep selling some legal variation of spice or bath salts, Froerer said. The Washington County Area Drug and Gang Task force seized more than 200 pounds of spice earlier this year, which had an estimated street value of more than $1.5 million.

mmcfall@sltrib.com