LEWISTON, Maine — Police are calling for local rules that ban bath salts and other synthetic drugs, closing a gap in federal and state rules.
“We are seeing this stuff in the stores locally, and it is of special concern to us,” Lewiston police Chief Michael Bussiere told city councilors at a workshop meeting Tuesday.
The proposed ordinance would make it illegal to stock, sell or have products designed to produce an illicit high. It targets potpourri, incense, bath salts and other items that may say they are not meant for human consumption but clearly are. Labels on the products may promise mood enhancement, euphoria or a high. They may be packed to look like illegal drugs, and they may seem especially expensive.
“This is sold by the gram, and it’s expensive,” Bussiere said. “Some of it gets sold for $80 per gram. Who’s going to pay that much for incense?”
It includes stimulants more commonly referred to as bath salts that may be sold in gas stations, tobacco shops and convenience stores under names such as “Bliss,” “Drone,” “Peeve” or as a stain remover.
It also includes synthetic marijuana that can be sold as incense and potpourri with names such as “Pot Pourri,” “Fake Weed,” “Spice” or “Hayzee.”
They can frequently contain narcotic or hallucinogenic chemicals that have not yet been regulated.
“That’s one of the reasons why these things are hard to pin down,” Bussiere said. “As soon as a state legislature or the U.S. Congress acts to make a specific synthetic drug illegal, the manufacturers can slightly alter the compound so it does not exactly fit the legal definition. Now they have a new hallucinogenic type of substance that’s out there.”
People caught in possession of the items would be liable to pay a $500 fine for each package, according to the proposed ordinance.
Councilors on Tuesday said they were eager to approve the ordinance and scheduled a vote for their June 4 meeting. Councilor John Butler said he wished there was a way to do it sooner, while Councilor Mark Cayer said he thought the penalty could be stiffer.
“If a business has a license with the city and they are caught in violation of this, I would strip them of their business license,” Cayer said. “I think this is one of the most dangerous things law enforcement has faced in a long time.”