As we recently reported, the readily available designer drugs known as Bath Salts and K2 have been under fire as local leaders push to vote restrictions into place prohibiting anyone from manufacturing, selling, or possessing the substances. As these bans go into effect, convenience store owners and local smoke shops may be left scrambling to pull the synthetic drugs from their shelves and dispose of them.
Columbia City Council placed an immediate ban on K2 and Bath Salts late last month, prohibiting anyone in the City of Columbia from possessing or selling either drug. Violators could potentially face a $1,000.00 fine or thirty days in jail.
Earlier this week, South Carolina joined 37 other states with a unanimous vote by the state Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) to place an emergency ban on the substances. The emergency regulation, which will be effective for 90 days, will last long enough for lawmakers to address the issue when they are back in session next January.
The 90 day window also allows the agency to prohibit the drugs as they wait for guidance from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.
DHEC’s emergency ban will allow law enforcement to remove the products from the shelves of local convenience stores and smoke shops where K2 and Bath Salts have been sold for around $25.00. Under the emergency regulation, anyone who manufacturers, sells, or uses either synthetic drug may face up to five years in prison and a $5,000.00 fine for a first offense.
DHEC’s vote to prohibit K2 and Bath Salts places the designer drugs in the same category with illegal drugs including marijuana and crystal meth.
In light of the emergency regulation, state and local law enforcement agencies may now arrest and prosecute anyone caught manufacturing, distributing, or using K2 or Bath Salts. Before Monday’s decision, charges could only be brought by the Drug Enforcement Administration and City of Columbia officers.
While reports indicate that Richland County is providing for a 15 day grace period, many of the bans went into force immediately.
Local convenience stores are advised to turn their inventory over to law enforcement immediately, a process which given the number of local stores carrying the designer drugs, is likely impossible to comply with. Although an immediate ban is clearly impracticable, local convenience store owners may be subject to immediate prosecution, an issue which may create a strong defense in the event of an arrest or prosecution.
In fact, WLTX-TV has reported that Columbia Police made their first seizure of the synthetic drug “K2” from the College Mart convenience store located in Five Points after receiving a tip from the station.
Authorities are asking people to call 9-1-1 immediately if you see the drugs still sold in store.
As for The College Mart, their shelves are now without the synthetic marijuana. The Columbia Police Department says they will test the drugs seized at the store and charges may be brought.
Greenville County and Newberry County have placed similar emergency bans in place.
By: South Carolina Drug Defense Lawyer Pete Strom