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Assembly Panel Clears Legislation Cracking Down on Dangerous Substance

A measure sponsored by Assembly members John F. McKeon, Linda Stender, Upendra Chivukula and Valerie Vainieri Huttle to crackdown on the dangerous practice of selling illegal drugs disguised as “bath salts” cleared a key Assembly panel on Thursday.

The legislation (A-3984), known as “Pamela’s Law,” was first announced by McKeon and Stender in March after the body of Pamela Schmidt, a Rutgers student and resident of Warren Township, was discovered in the basement of her boyfriend’s parent’s home in Cranford. According to newspaper articles, the boyfriend, who has been charged with murder, may have been using “bath salts” and consequently suffering from paranoia and mania.

“Bath salts, by all accounts, are one of the most dangerous drugs to enter the market in many years,” said McKeon (D-Essex). “The side effects can lead to extremely violent and disturbing behavior, as we’ve seen in a number of tragic reports. This bill will help get them off the market and crack down on anyone attempting to push the substance.”

“It’s truly unnerving the way these substances were slipped onto the market disguised as ‘bath salts,'” said Stender (D-Middlesex/Somerset/Union). “Given the dangerous and deadly side effects that have been reported, this legislation will help ensure that stiff penalties are in place for anyone selling or buying the substance.”

The measure would criminalize the possession and sale of products containing narcotic substances such as mephedrone or methylenedioxpyrovalerone, commonly known as MDPV, which are being sold over the counter as “bath salts” and easily available at gas stations, convenience stores or head shops.

“The fact that this product was sold openly on the market is astonishing,” said Chivukula (D-Middlesex/Somerset). “This legislation will crack down on its sale both on the open market and the black market and send a tough message to anyone looking to profit off of these drugs.”

“Given the dangerous side effects caused by these substances, it’s my hope that this legislation will help save lives,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “Criminalizing its sale and possession will help limit the avenues for obtaining this product, and hopefully help us avoid more tragedies of this nature.”

Some of the after affects of using these products, which are believed to be highly addictive, include high blood pressure, increased heart rate, agitation, hallucinations, extreme paranoia, delusions, and suicidal thoughts.

Users experience an intense high, extreme energy, hallucinations, insomnia and are easily provoked to anger, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which is currently investigating the drugs.

Under the bill, it would become a crime of the third degree to possess, manufacture, or distribute products containing: 4-methylmethcathinone (mephedrone, 4-MMC); 3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV); 3,4-methylenedioxymethcathinone (methylone, MDMC), 4-methoxymethcathinone (methedrone, bk-PMMA, PMMC); 3-fluoromethcathinone (3-FMC); or 4-fluoromethcathinone (flephedrone, 4-FMC).

A crime of the third degree is punishable by a three to five year term of imprisonment, a $15,000 fine or both.

These products have emerged as legal alternatives to cocaine and methamphetamines, and one or both have already been banned in the European Union, Australia, Canada, and Israel. In the United States, Florida, Louisiana and North Dakota have all recently banned the substances.

The bill cleared the Assembly Judiciary Committee by a vote of 5-1 and now heads to the full Assembly.