LINCOLN — State senators wrestled Thursday with how to keep ahead of the ever-changing products laced with synthetic drugs that provide dangerous but legal highs.
The latest product, chemically enhanced "bath salts" with names like "Blue Wave" and "Vanilla Sky," are already being pulled off store shelves — even before the Legislature bans them.
Corey O'Brien of the Nebraska Attorney General's Office said products labeled as "plant food" are among the new variants of products that provide highs similar to LSD or methamphetamine. A federal ban on "bath salts," he said, is pushing sales to street corners instead of inside stores.
Christine Gabig, a forensic scientist with the Douglas County Sheriff's Office, said Kansas City is already seeing a new wave of "bath salts" that contain a different kind of high-inducing drugs that get around federal restrictions.
Both officials testified at the Nebraska Legislature in favor of a bill that would make possessing "bath salts" laced with certain high-inducing drugs a Class IV felony, punishable by up to five years in prison.
Legislative Bill 814 would make the penalty similar to those for possession of meth or LSD, O'Brien said.
He said 2012 was the third year out of the past four that his office was seeking to make illegal a new product that contains synthetic drugs. Last year's target was K-2, a synthetic attempt to replicate marijuana.
"Is there any way to get ahead of these?" asked Omaha Sen. Brenda Council.
It's difficult, responded O'Brien. "People have been getting high since the beginning of time," he said.
Seward County Deputy Sheriff Mike Vance testified that last year it took three deputies several minutes to subdue and arrest a young man who was high on bath salts in Staplehurst, Neb. The drug gave the man incredible strength, he said, similar to the effect of the drug PCP, known as "angel dust."
"He was tazed three times and kneed in the side. ... It did not have any effect on him," Vance said.
LB 814, introduced by Sen. Ken Schilz of Ogallala, is among the legislative priorities of Attorney General Jon Bruning. The Judiciary Committee did not take action on the bill after its public hearing.
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