Most arrests on drug charges involve people selling illegal substances on street corners, out of cars or from their living rooms. But some very dangerous drugs, marketed under the generic name "bath salts," can be purchased openly at some stores.
Two employees of stores where hallucinogenic "bath salts" had been sold, in Clarksburg and Buckhannon, pleaded guilty to various drug-related charges Monday in federal court in the former city. They face prison terms of as long as 20 years and fines of as much as $1 million when they are sentenced.
After a lengthy investigation, federal agents and police raided the two stores, both called "Hot Stuff and Cool Things," in April.
William Ihlenfeld, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of West Virginia, pointed out after the raids that sale of "bath salts" apparently was very hot stuff for the stores' owner, Jeffrey J. Paglia and his business partner, John Skruck. About $750,000 in cash and bank deposits, along with 11 properties, were seized as part of the investigation.
Paglia and Skruck also were charged. If they are guilty of accusations against them, both men should be sent to prison for a long time.
Many stores selling "bath salts" openly attract young people, including some pre-teens. The drugs often are sold in brightly colored packages under innocent-sounding names such as "Vanilla Sky" and "Ivory Wave."
The substances themselves are far from harmless, however.
From time to time, complaints are heard about stores in our area, on both sides of the Ohio River, selling "bath salts."
Conscientious store owners never had such products on their shelves. A few may have stocked them but gotten rid of "bath salts" once they understood the nature of the substances.
Those still selling "bath salts," after the enormous amount of publicity about the problem, ought to be put out of business and into prison cells. Congratulations to Ihlenfeld, along with other local and federal law enforcement officials and officers involved in the Clarksburg and Buckhannon raids.
Let's hope they send a message - and if it isn't heeded, that more raids and arrests take place until "bath salts" no longer are found in West Virginia or Ohio stores.