WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent (PA-15) and State Rep. Jennifer L. Mann (D-132) during a press conference today at Allentown’s Sacred Heart Hospital discussed legislation they authored to ban various synthetic drug substitutes sold legally in most states, including Pennsylvania. Dent and Mann were joined by Dr. Colleen Wladyslawski, Head of Emergency Medicine at Sacred Heart, and local parents whose children have used synthetic drugs.

“Seemingly every week, Lehigh Valley residents are exposed to new accounts of synthetic drug users displaying erratic and often violent behavior,” Dent said. “Although these individuals pose a serious risk to public safety, the dangerous drugs they abuse remain legal and easily accessible in stores across our area. I commend Rep. Mann for her efforts to eliminate these substances in Pennsylvania and will continue to advocate for legislation to ban synthetic drugs on the federal level.”

“Right now a 17-year-old high school student couldn’t walk into a convenience store and buy cigarettes or walk into a bar and buy a six-pack of beer, but, under current law, that same 17-year-old could buy a drug that mimics the effects of cocaine and there’s nothing the police could do about it,” Mann said. “That’s absolutely wrong, and the bills Congressman Dent and I are fighting for would give law enforcement the tools they need to get this poison off the streets and out of the hands of our students.”

“It is never too soon to start educating parents and kids,” Wladyslawski explained. “We are seeing increased cases in our Emergency Department at Sacred Heart with incidents occurring weekly. These synthetic drugs can have permanent, devastating effects. The sooner legislation passes at the state and federal levels, the better for our families and communities.”

The Synthetic Drug Control Act (H.R. 1254), authored by Rep. Dent 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. 1224 enhances the authority of 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.

Mann’s companion legislation in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, H.B. 365, is a comprehensive bill that bans bath salts on the state level, as well as synthetic marijuana – better known as “Spice” or “K2” – and the naturally occurring, yet legal, hallucinogen salvia dinorum. This bill passed the House unanimously and now awaits action in the state Senate.

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