TAYLORVILLE, Ill. (AP) - Gov. Bruce Rauner signed legislation Monday to punish Illinois retailers that sell so-called bath salts, which are chemicals that mimic the effects of cocaine and other powerful drugs.
"We've got to do everything we can to end the scourge of drug addition," Rauner said before signing the bill in Taylorville, about 25 miles southeast of Springfield. Rauner called bath salts "very dangerous" chemicals that are causing problems in Illinois' rural communities.
Illinois and every other state already prohibit the sale of bath salts. But the new state law allows prosecutors to go after convenience stores and gas stations that knowingly sell the synthetic drugs, which are often disguised as everyday products.
The bath salts are sometimes on display on store shelves, but usually they're sold under the counter to customers using a password or code, said Christian County State's Attorney Mike Havera. He added that his office doesn't know how easily accessible bath salts are, but they have been hearing about the product from law enforcement.
The law taking effect Jan. 1 makes selling bath salts a felony punishable with a fine of up to $150,000.
Manufacturers of the synthetic drugs have been skirting state and federal laws by modifying their formulas to get around existing prohibitions, Havera said.
Democratic Sen. Andy Manar, one of the legislators who sponsored the bill, said he's considering additional measures for next year addressing bath salts to give law enforcement more ways to tackle what he calls an epidemic.
Rauner signed the bill on the same day the Republican National Convention began in Cleveland, which he's skipping in its entirety. The governor said last week he's not attending the convention because he is traveling the state signing bills and that he's "not commenting on the presidential race anymore."