Gov. Peter Shumlin asked dozens of police attending a designer drug seminar at the Vt. Statehouse for a favor.
"We need you in this partnership, that we can't do it without you," said Shumlin, D-Vermont.
The governor is talking about his newest war on bath salts, or the methamphetamine-mimicking class of drugs taking root in Vermont. The cache of chemicals go by a variety of misleading names.
"Labeling it as potpourri, labeling it as incense, labeling it as bath salts," Barre Police Chief Tim Bombardier said.
Bombardier says the drugs are being legally sold in Vermont smoke shops and gas stations. Manufacturers get away with concealing their products' ever-changing chemical cocktails by printing "not for human" consumption on the label. Police call it a scam wrapped up in shiny packages. But who is buying them?
"Stoners and kids," Bombardier said.
"This is not better living through chemistry," said Dr. Harry Chen, Vermont's Health Commissioner.
Chen told police these kinds of drugs are shipped in from China and South Asia. They cause hallucinations, paranoia, suicidal behavior and death.
"We lost a life in Rutland. A 28-year-old male died from using bath salts," said Shumlin, D-Vermont.
And now the death toll is rising. Officials have learned bath salts may have contributed to a fatal crash in May on Interstate 89. Toxicology results released Thursday revealed the driver, Jason Potvin, 29, had mephedrone-- a chemical commonly found in bath salts-- in his system when he crossed the median and collided with a truck. Potvin, his girlfriend and their 8-month-old son were killed in the crash.
"I will work together with you in law enforcement to ensure that we bust the people who are profiting and selling this junk that is killing Vermonters," Shumlin said.
Two weeks ago the state added 86 chemicals to a list of banned substances, but police quickly realized that even that didn't catch all the chemicals. So now a second emergency ban is in the works with much broader language that includes classes of chemicals.
"As fast as they change their mix, our rule will be broad enough so they are busted if they use it," Shumlin said.
It's a game of catch-up public health officials hope they win before another Vermont life is lost.
Officials hope to have that second emergency ban in place by the end of the month.
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