Nobody's really sure what the actual purpose of the powdery substance sold in smoke shops called "bath salts" is -- the $29.99 per gram powders are sold without instructions.
But the kids who smoke them and otherwise ingest the bizarre chemical cocktail -- which includes a synthetic drug similar to methaphetamine, the side effects of which include hallucinations and paranoia -- are ending up in hospitals and psychiatric wards, which is why a California lawmaker is moving to ban the sale of "Spice" and other brands of the bath salts outright.
It's clear that the bath salts are growing in popularity: poison control centers reported 302 cases in which people were exposed to bath salts in 2010; this year, as of July 31, there had been 4,137 cases, according to the San Jose Mercury News.
There's a federal ban on the way via Congress, but in the meantime, a San Diego Assembly member is working to ban bath salts in California, according to the newspaper. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, wrote Assembly Bill 486 to make bath salts the past in California.
The most common synthetic found in bath salts is Methylenedioxypyrovalerone, also called MDPV, according to the newspaper. Others are Mephedrone and derivatives of Methcathinone, which also is known as "Khat" and is structurally and pharmaceutically similar to methamphetamine.
Many cigarette shops and smoke shops don't sell the product -- the effects of which are "like crack," according to one head shop owner -- but there's nothing legally stopping the merchants who do. At least not yet.
Hueso's bill was scheduled to be heard on the Assembly floor on Monday.