But over at the city commission, they don’t need no stinking evidence to know what happened or what to do about it. The commissioners last week banned the sale of anything called “bath salt” or “bath salts.” In civilized, literate parts of the world, laws banning drugs contain their actual chemical formulas.
Ha! Our commissioners don’t need no stinking science, either. Just a package with the name bath salts is illegal now, which is going to come as a surprise to all the nice ladies who buy vanilla-scented crystals to dissolve in their baths. (The commission apparently thought it had gotten around that by extending the ban only to packages under 16 ounces, but a lot of cosmetic bath salts come in eight-ounce packets.) Not to be outdone, several other local city councils, as well as the Miami-Dade County Commission, are poised to jump off the same bridge.
These bans aren’t going to do a thing to remove bath salts — the ones that make you high — from public consumption. Dealers will just start labeling them “plant food” or some other banal phrase, as the Brits did. Even a less forthrightly stupid approach than that of the Miami city commissioners will face serious difficulties. Because the psychoactive compound in bath salts is synthetic, chemists can tinker just slightly with the molecule to produce a substance that’s technically different enough to be legal. That’s why bath salts are still on sale around the United States even though the DEA outlawed them in 1993.
The only thing the panic over bath salts is likely to do, in the end, is sell more bath salts. Scottish public-health researcher Alasdair J. M. Forsyth, who studied Great Britain’s panic over mephedrone in 2009, discovered that Google searches of the phrase “mephedrone buy” skyrocketed every time a new atrocity story broke into the news. “News of drug deaths causes more interest in the drug, including buying it,” he wrote.
That’s right: Our politicians are pushers.