TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi on Wednesday temporarily banned a synthetic designer drug called MDVP that is commonly labeled “bath salts.''
Officials say the complex drug, sold at malls, head shops, convenience and other retail outlets, often near displays of energy drinks, can produce hallucinations, severe paranoia, seizures, aggression, increased blood pressure and eventually kidney failure.
Bondi is worried the so-called bath salts, which usually are snorted like cocaine but also can be smoked and injected, could pose a hazard when tens of thousands of college students descend on Florida's beaches for spring break.
“It makes you think you're seeing monsters and it also makes you think that you can fly and there are a lot of balconies out there,'' Bondi said at a hastily called news conference.
Bondi issued a 90-day emergency order that went into effect immediately. It makes the sale or possession of the drug a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison. That's the same penalty as for similar crimes involving cocaine or heroin.
Legislative leaders said who attended the news conference said they plan to pass a law permanently banning the substance when lawmakers begin their regular session in March.
Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen, who brought the issue to Bondi's attention, said a woman who took the drug there tried to cut her mother's head off with a machete thinking she was a monster.
In another case it took seven officers to subdue a man who was on the drug and take him to a hospital, McKeithen said.
“He literally tore the radar unit out of the vehicle with his feet,'' the sheriff said.
Bay County includes Panama City Beach, one of the nation's top spring break destinations.
Florida law gives the attorney general the authority to temporarily prohibit new substances not covered by existing statutes “to avoid an imminent hazard to the public safety.''
Bondi held up a couple foil packets of bath salts purchased at a mall and store in Tallahassee and a small jar bought in Panama City. She said they sell of $30 or $35 each.
Officials believe the drug comes from China. It is sold under such names as Purple Rain, Ivory Wave, Pure Ivory, Vanilla Sky, Ocean Burst and Bolivian Bath.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal issued a similar order earlier this month.
Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey said the substance contains five dangerous chemicals not prohibited under current law.
It's usually sold in packets or jars of 500 milligrams, but there are no instructions on how to use it so overdoses are common as it takes only 10 milligrams to get high, Bailey said.