TALLAHASSEE — The white powder marketed as bath salts under names like Ivory Wave, Vanilla Sky and Purple Rain mimics cocaine and LSD when snorted. And as of Wednesday, it's illegal in Florida.
Attorney General Pam Bondi issued an emergency rule that makes possession or distribution of the powder a third-degree felony punishable by one to five years behind bars. The rule will remain in place for 90 days, and legislators plan to pass a law making the substance illegal permanently.
Until now, the packets of powder have been sold in convenience stores and head shops. They contain a chemical called methylenedioxypyrovalerone, or MDPV. Side effects include increased heart rate, nosebleeds, hallucinations, severe paranoia, seizures and kidney failure. It's typically sold in 500 milligram packets for about $35.
Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen said users usually ingest 10 milligrams or less, but some are consuming entire packets.
In one case, a man under the influence who had ingested the drug displayed near "superhuman strength" and required seven officers to subdue him, McKeithen said.
"He literally tore the radar unit out of the vehicle with his teeth," McKeithen said.
In another instance, a woman tried to chop her mother's head off with a machete, thinking she was a monster, he said.
Bondi said she wanted to get the emergency order in place before spring breakers hit Panhandle beaches, where use of the substance is prevalent.
"It also makes you think that you can fly and there are a lot of balconies out there," Bondi said as she held up packets of the stuff.
She wants the powder classified as a schedule 1 controlled substance, putting it in the same class as cocaine and heroin. Plans call for either adding the product to existing bills that would ban fake marijuana or introducing standalone legislation.
"This product is simply up to no good," said Senate President Mike Haridopolos. "We need to act quickly to make sure kids are protected."
Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey said word is going out to sellers that the fake bath salts, supposedly manufactured in China, need to come off the shelves.
Janet Zink can be reached at email@example.com or (850) 224-7263.