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'Bath Salts' Penalties Move Forward In Colorado

DENVER (CBS4/AP) - Selling or manufacturing synthetic drugs known as "bath salts" would be illegal in Colorado under a bill that received committee approval this week.

Senate lawmakers unanimously approved a proposal Tuesday that would make it a felony for distributing or manufacturing bath salts and carry a civil penalty of up to $500,000. The chemicals mimic the effects of powerful drugs such as cocaine.

The bill still needs approval from the entire Senate.

Several states nationwide are taking up the issue. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed legislation last week to ban bath salts.

4 On Your Side investigators have been reporting on the highly addictive products since last year. They're sometimes marketed to children and sold in tobacco shops, head shops, and even convenience stores.

Bath salts labeled "Not for human consumption" are sold to be used as synthetic drugs. (credit: CBS)

RELATED: Synthetic Drugs Sold As Bath Salts, Plant Food

"I watched the disintegration of one of most promising young people I ever met to someone who was living on the streets," bill supporter Marc Soicher said.

"The primary intent of legislation is to stop companies from manufacturing this stuff and pushing it on to our kids," said the bill's sponsor, Sen. Joyce Foster, D-Denver.

Defense attorneys also testified in support of the bill.

"We will be able to get it off the shelves," a defense attorney testified.

Even though distributing or manufacturing bath salts would be a felony under the bill, possession of the bath salts would only be a misdemeanor. Prosecutors and law enforcement said they are opposed to treating possession of the drug as a misdemeanor while similar drugs as felonies.

"This is about bath salts, one single drug, one schedule, one substance that needs be treated like other Schedule Ones," Tom Raynes with the Colorado District Attorney's Council said.

"We do not need to create a lifetime of consequences for these kids by branding them felons," Foster said.

Last year, Colorado lawmakers passed a bill to ban chemicals used to produce synthetic marijuana, often called Spice or K2.

LINK: Senate Bill 116

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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