By Colby Itkowitz, MORNING CALL WASHINGTON BUREAU

WASHINGTON – On opposite sides of the Capitol, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey and U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent are working independently to ban the chemicals found in bath salts, a fine, white powder people are snorting and smoking to get high.

In mid-February, Casey co-sponsored legislation to add MDPV and mephedrone, synthetic chemicals found in bath salts, to the Drug Enforcement Administration's list of controlled substances. On Wednesday evening Dent introduced his own bill to ban those chemicals as well as other synthetic drugs.

"There is ample evidence that these so-called bath salts are a dangerous substance being used like meth or cocaine," Casey said in February. "Action needs to be taken to get bath salts off the shelf and out of our communities."

Casey asked the DEA administrator via letter on Tuesday to ban the chemicals for at least a year while the agency studies their impact. "MDPV and mephedrone should be taken off the shelves and out of our communities," Casey wrote.

Dent's legislation would ban the bath salts chemicals, but also calls for bans on synthetic marijuana substitutes as well as other synthetic drugs that the DEA has found gaining popularity overseas.

Last fall, Dent's office received an email from a constituent whose child had been getting high on synthetic marijuana. After meeting with her, Dent said he contacted the Drug Enforcement Administration for more information.

Through those conversations, Dent learned that the DEA was equally concerned about the bath salts trend. In early March the DEA banned the most common ingredients found in synthetic marijuana, but other variations of the chemicals skirt the law. And bath salts chemicals are still legal in most places.

A judge in Scranton on Wednesday banned the sale of bath salts in that city. Pennsylvania lawmakers are considering a statewide ban.

Dent said that he has not reached out to Casey or anyone else on the Senate side sponsoring similar legislation. He took it upon himself to introduce a bill when he found out that no one else in the House had taken the lead.

He said he'll begin pressing leaders on the House Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over the matter, to take up his bill, although the DEA can temporarily ban the chemicals up to one year without the will of Congress.