TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami) – So-called designer drugs are one step closer to being banned.

The House Judiciary Committee passed a bill (HB 619) that would crack down on such drugs, which have made news in high-profile stories like the “Causeway Cannibal” attack in May, 2012.

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The South Florida Business Journal reports the legislation adds 27 additional substances to Schedule I of controlled substances. Individuals who “sell, manufacture, or deliver, or possess with intent to sell, manufacture or deliver” these drugs can be charged with a third-degree felony.

The drugs, which include bath salts and synthetic marijuana, have been easy to obtain through area head shops and gas stations. Because they are a low-cost, legal alternative to marijuana, the drugs are a hit with young people.

Medical experts, however, warn they can have tragic long-term effects. Some users have died and others have suffered psychotic episodes, seizures and paranoia.

The House Bill is sponsored by Representative Clay Ingram, R-Pensacola. The companion Senate Bill (SB 294) is sponsored by Senator Rob Bradley (R-Orange Park).

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“This legislation is critical in addressing Florida’s synthetic drug problem, especially among the 12-29 year old age group who make up 75 percent of synthetic drug-related emergency room visits,” Attorney General Pam Bondi said in a press release. “I thank Representative Ingram and the House Judiciary Committee for joining me in supporting legislation that will remove these dangerous synthetic drugs from store shelves.”

In March 2012, the state outlawed 142 chemicals. Bondi outlawed 22 in December.

Perhaps Bondi’s biggest challenge: keeping a step ahead of the drugs’ manufacturers, who employ chemists who constantly tweak their formulas.

(TM and © 2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and © 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The South Florida Business Journal contributed to this report.)

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