Abuse of bath salts as recreational drugs is causing law enforcement and community leaders to issue drug alerts and causing panic among makers of harmless, traditional bath salts, according to a downtown businessman.
Overdoses and deaths from the synthetic designer drug have recently led some cities to enforce a ban on bath salts, and Salem aldermen are awaiting state legislation before they pursue a ban.
Downtown Salem businessman John Watson says there's a lot of confusion about bath salts, and all the recent negative publicity is hurting his business. Nationwide, sales of his bath salts has dropped by about 50 percent since the scare started, he said.
"What I carry is the traditional bath salts, the kind grandmother uses, the traditional stuff mom always had," said Watson.
Watson sells fragrance oils and incense, and he sells his own bath salts at his store, Crossroads Corner, at 404 West Fourth Street.
His product line is called Astral Sea, made locally at a facility in the Masters Industrial Park and sold in about 100 stores nationwide and on his Internet site.
Watson said there are two types of bath salts. One variety is a designer synthetic drug marketed as bath salts. The powder has effects similar to cocaine and meth. Then there are the old-fashioned bath salts.
Watson said the bottom line, bath salts are not dangerous and it is easy to tell which one you are looking at, one is behind the counter (bad), the other is out on the shelves (good).
Watson says he knows his bath salts can't possibly be banned, but by people lumping bath salts into one group and saying bath salts are being used as street drugs, scares people.
"I assure you mine are the kind you bathe in and that's the only use," Watson said. "I don't sell that stuff. So don't go throwing out your traditional bath salts."
Watson was shocked when Salem aldermen recently discussed having an ordinance prepared to ban bath salts. City leaders later said they didn't know it was specific chemical compounds of bath salts that were dangerous.
At the May 2 Salem aldermanic meeting Watson discussed his opposition to the board's decision two weeks earlier to have the city attorney prepare an ordinance banning bath salts within the city limits. Watson said sale of bath salts is about 25 percent of his business. He said any ban should include a list of chemical compounds and should not be a blanket ban on all bath salts.
Aldermen agreed that any decision on the proposed ordinance should come after state legislation is passed, and the city ordinance would include chemical compound data.
"What bothers me is the lack of care for legitimate businesses. The legislation shouldn't use the term "adds bath salts" to the list of Schedule I controlled substances," Watson said.
Watson says the proposed state legislation making bath salts Illegal is confusing and the language in the bills needs clarity and to be more specific about chemical compounds being banned.
Watson's bath salts are made with all natural salts and oils, with added fragrances, he said. The street bath salts contains Methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), a potent psychoactive drug.
Lawmakers in both Missouri and Illinois are proposing to outlaw bath salts. Alton, Granite City and St. Charles County have already banned bath salts based on proposed legislation.