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For Immediate Release

Date: 09/27/11

Legislature approves bill to toughen penalties for possession of 'bath salt' synthetic drugs

AUGUSTA - Today, the Legislature passed a bill to dramatically increase penalties for persons convicted of possessing or trafficking in so-called "bath salt" drugs. These synthetic hallucinogens have been linked to fatalities and bizarre behavior.

The measure, LD 1589, carried an emergency preamble, meaning it will take effect once signed by Governor Paul LePage. It was sponsored by State Rep. Doug Damon (R-Bangor), who said that while Bangor is the "epicenter" of the "bath salt" crisis, the problems associated with the drug can be found across the state.

The legislation lists eight kinds of synthetic hallucinogenic drugs.

"This is an extremely serious public health situation," said Rep. Damon, a first-term legislator. "The governor asked me to present this bill, and I was very pleased to do so. The name 'bath salts' sounds harmless, but this drug is truly a scourge that is taking a heavy toll on many people in Maine and around the country. It is destroying lives."

LD 1589 changes the penalty for unlawful possession, elevating the civil violation to a misdemeanor. Furnishing and trafficking of "bath salts" both move from a misdemeanor to a felony. The legislation also applies the asset forfeiture laws pertaining to scheduled drugs to property used in the manufacturing or delivering of synthetic hallucinogenic drugs and weapons, money and real property related to drug crimes.

Simple possession of a synthetic hallucinogen becomes a Class D crime, which carries a prison sentence of up to 364 days. Possession may be "enhanced" to a Class C crime if the person has one or more prior convictions for any offense under the drug laws in the Maine Criminal Code.

Trafficking in the drug is now a Class B crime, which carries a 10-year incarceration term, unless the dealer is selling to someone under age 18. In this case, the crime is categorized as Class A, which can result in a prison sentence of up to 30 years.

Under LD 1589, an individual who uses a motor vehicle for trafficking in synthetic hallucinogens could lose his or her license for up to five years. The license suspension would not begin until after any period of incarceration has been served.

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Contact:
Jay Finegan
Maine House Republicans
Tel: (207) 287-1445