Although Chesterfield County Sheriff Sam Parker was unable to keep his appointment with Chesterfield County Council members last Wednesday morning, he was able to submit an explanation of the problems law enforcement is facing now that several of the ingredients in bath salts, banned last summer, are changing.
The problem, Parker said, is some of the substances bath salt manufacturers have started using were not previously included in the list of Controlled Substances designated by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC).
DHEC recently amended that list to include eight new substances used to make bath salts and synthetic marijuana.
A letter sent to Chesterfield County Attorney Heath Ruffner, from the South Carolina Association of Counties earlier this fall, says “DHEC’S decision to add these substances to the Schedule I controlled substances list makes the five types of synthetic marijuana and three types of bath salts illegal throughout the state.” The letter also stated, “if DHEC had not acted, only a federal agent could have enforced the federal regulations under their federal jurisdiction.”
Jenna Stephens, a staff member for the South Carolina Association of Counties, said, “it appears the regulation of drugs and controlled substances is most likely covered thoroughly under existing state law and therefore a county ordinance banning the compound would be struck down as preempted by state law.”
Stephens warns county governments considering ordinances against these types drugs to be aware of “potential issues.”
According to Stephens, those issues include: 1) Every time a suspect is arrested on suspicion of possessing bath salts, the county must arrange for a lab to do a chemical analysis to prove what the compound is. The lab must meet proper standards, and the county will have to pay for the work. 2) Council must present legislative findings that show the studies on the harms of bath salts, and a rational reason they should be banned. These findings must be scientific and thorough. 3) Be prepared to defend against lawsuits. A defendant facing jail time will very likely challenge the authority of the county to enact the ordinance, the lab used to the test the compound, and the legislative findings.
County Council received this information, but as Parker was not present for the meeting, there was no discussion on the matter. No decisions regarding the county’s current laws or ordinances pertaining to bath salts or synthetic marijuana were made.
— Staff Writer Karen Kissiah can be reached by calling 843-537-5261, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.