WASHINGTON, D.C. – Legislation introduced by U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent (PA-15) to ban the sale of various synthetic drugs today passed the U.S. House of Representatives.

“I first learned about the dangers of new synthetic drugs after reading an email from a constituent whose son’s life had nearly been destroyed by his abuse of synthetic marijuana or ‘spice’,” said Rep. Dent. “Following that initial contact, a growing number of local residents shared with me powerful stories involving their own abuse of synthetic drugs or the destructive impact these substances have had on loved ones.”

“Most shocking to me was the realization that these dangerous compounds could be purchased legally in stores across the country,” said Rep. Dent. “I knew then it was time for Congress to move to ban the sale of these emerging synthetic drugs, which have thus far demonstrated no medicinal value.”

On March 30, 2011, Rep. Dent introduced H.R. 1254, the Synthetic Drug Control Act. The bill identifies chemical compounds that affect the brain in a manner similar to THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, and adds them to Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. Schedule I bans drugs and controlled substances that have high potential for abuse and have no use in medical treatment in the United States.

The bill also bans chemical compounds used in synthetic drugs commonly sold as ‘bath salts’ or ‘plant food’, which have been identified as cocaine substitutes. Abuse of bath salts has recently garnered much public attention in Pennsylvania, where disturbing cases of violent, erratic and dangerous behavior have been linked to recreational use of the substance.

Additionally, H.R. 1254 enhances the authority of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to temporarily ban drugs in the interest of public safety and provides greater time for the agency to prove a chemical is harmful, lacks medicinal or industrial value, and should be banned permanently.

The legislation is supported by numerous law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). In a September letter declaring the Department’s support for H.R. 1254, Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich explained, “Products containing synthetic drugs are dangerous and represent a growing challenge to law enforcement.” The legislation is also supported by the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP).

Earlier this fall, the Committee on Energy & Commerce and the Committee on the Judiciary passed the bill with no opposition, clearing the way for H.R. 1254 to be considered on the House floor.

“I am extremely pleased the House has passed H.R. 1254,” continued Rep. Dent. “I am hopeful the U.S. Senate will now move this legislation in a timely manner, allowing President Obama to sign the bill into law as soon as possible. I am confident banning the sale of dangerous synthetic drugs will help save lives in communities across the United States, including the 15th District.”