Bath salts

The city of Redlands is banning the sale and use of "bath salts," above, and "Spice." The new ordinance takes effect Friday. (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)

Redlands police began distributing warning letters Thursday to local businesses, advising them that the sale and use of toxic, synthetic chemical drugs known as “Spice” and “bath salts” will be banned in the city.

In the wake of growing numbers of people having medical problems and psychiatric issues associated with the manmade drugs, Redlands City Council last month outlawed the sale and use of the drugs.

The law takes effect Friday.

“These drugs are as dangerous as PCP and meth, yet stores have been selling them and our youth have been using them legally,” Lt. Travis Martinez said. “We intend to vigorously enforce this ordinance and we won’t hesitate to take action against any violators.”

Redlands officials are hoping to close legal loopholes that allowed the substances to be sold legally. Those found in violation of the new ordinance are subject to fines, jail time and the revocation of business licenses, police said.

The impact of synthetic chemicals vary and can result in extreme paranoia, depression and violence — often coupled with PCP-type super strength, police report.

Authorities have seen Spice and bath salts involved in suicides, strokes, psychotic breaks, self-mutilation, car crashes and killings. 

The dangers were highlighted last year when Deutsche Bank executive Brian C. Mulligan admitted to a Glendale police officer he consumed bath salts to try to cure his insomnia. Under the influence of the drug, Mulligan believed a police helicopter was following him, he said later.

He said he had no idea about the side effects of bath salts when he acquired them.

Redlands police say state statistics show a rising tide of problems associated with the drugs. Nationally, calls to poison control centers shot up from 2,915 in 2010 to 6,890 in 2011 for Spice and from 303 to 6,072 for bath salts.

While some California and federal laws address the drugs, loopholes have allowed them to be possessed, used and often sold legally.

Illicit manufacturers have altered the chemical formulations and packaging to evade the extremely limited laws, Martinez said.  

“I am particularly concerned about this new group of dangerous synthetic drugs,” said Dr. Phong Nguyen, medical director of emergency services at the Redlands Community Hospital.

“The wide variety of chemicals used in these drugs make it very difficult for us to identify and treat patients who have ingested them," he added.

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richard.winton@latimes.com