Upshur Bureau Chief
ELKINS - Randolph County officials have taken the first steps toward trying to rid the area of the dangerous synthetic hallucinogens known as bath salts.
On first reading, Randolph County Commission members unanimously approved an ordinance this week that would ban in the county the advertising, possession, use, purchase and/or distribution of substituted cathinones, commonly known as bath salts, as well as synthetic cannabinoids "and certain other synthetic drugs," according to the document.
The penalty for violating the proposed ordinance is a $500 fine for each day a person is deemed to be in violation of its provisions. This fine is "subject to all applicable court costs, assessments, and surcharges," the document, which was prepared by Randolph County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Parker, states.
Randolph County Family Resource Network Director Rebecca Vance said she'd been working closely with Parker to develop an ordinance outlawing bath salts.
"As you know, bath salts are a huge epidemic, and West Virginia is number one in the nation for bath salts abuse, and Harrison County is the number one county," Vance told the commission at its regular meeting Thursday. "As you know, I'm involved with America's Promise Coalition through the FRN, and the hope of the coalition is that by standing up and saying no to having bath salts here, we're showing those mom-and-pop stores that have been selling bath salts that we care about our community and we want to make it a better place."
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, bath salts commonly contain methylenedioxypyrovalerone (known as MDPV), mephedrone and methylone, and are chemically similar to amphetamines - including methamphetamine - and ecstasy.
Bath salts - which are typically sold in small plastic or foil packages labeled "not for human consumption" - should not be mistaken for products like Epsom salts that are used to add fragrance to the experience of bathing, NIDA's website warns.
Bath salts typically take the form of white or brown crystalline powder and can cause euphoria and increased sociability and sex drive. However, some users experience undesirable effects, including paranoia, agitation, hallucinatory delirium, psychotic or violent behavior and even death, the website states.
Randolph County Sheriff Mark Brady, who was present at Thursday's meeting, said he "strongly supports" a bath salts ordinance.
"There is no medicinal value to having bath salts, absolutely none," Brady said. "Any establishment that tries to tell you that they help with certain health problems is simply not telling the truth."
Commissioner Mike Taylor made a motion to approve the ordinance upon first reading, which was passed unanimously. A public comment period on the proposed law has been scheduled for 1 p.m. Dec. 19, just 30 minutes prior to the commission's next regular meeting, when the second reading of the ordinance will take place.
In other business, Parker reported that Randolph County will be receiving credit memos for seven offenders from the West Virginia Regional Jail Authority, totaling $12,619.10 in savings for the county. Parker said the savings are a result of the Regional Jail Authority incorrectly billing the county for inmates that may still have been housed in regional jails, but had technically begun their sentences under the auspices of the state Division of Corrections.
In other business:
- The commission voted to grant a $4,000 funding request from Randolph County Circuit Court Judge Jaymie Godwin Wilfong to organize the People's Law School, which was submitted at a prior meeting; commission deferred making a decision at the time, citing budgetary concerns.
- The commission voted to give the Randolph County Convention and Visitors Bureau $10,000 out of the county's hotel/motel tax funds; the CVB will use the money for advertising and promotions.
- Johns said the courthouse will be closed all day Dec. 24 and Dec. 25; it will be open for a half-day Dec. 31, but will be closed all day Jan. 1, 2014.
- Commissioners announced adjustments to its meeting schedule in January 2014, saying they will meet at 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 9 and Jan. 23. In February, they will revert back to meeting on the first and third Thursdays of the month at 1:30 p.m. in the James F. Cain Courthouse Annex.
Contact Katie Kuba by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at IMT_Kuba.