WEEKS after the country's first ''bath salts'' death claimed the life of a NSW truck driver, similar products are freely available in ACT stores.
''Bath salts'', which mimic the effect of cocaine and have nothing to do with bathing, are legally marketed online as a pharmaceutical.
In one Canberra store, two pills labelled ''bath salts'' sell for $29.99. Even though the back of the packet says ''not for consumption'' the saleswoman asked The Sunday Canberra Times to return and give a review of the product after we had ''taken it''. She said it could be swallowed, injected or crushed and snorted.
ACT Policing were not aware that ''bath salts'' were available in ACT stores until told of The Sunday Canberra Times investigation.
''To date, there is no evidence of the product's prevalence in the ACT, however ACT Policing is maintaining active intelligence sharing about this product with other police jurisdictions,'' a spokesman said.
''The problem is we don't know the product is illegal until we test it.''
Manufacturers tweak the composition of the substances so they circumvent illegal drug classifications yet can still trigger many of the same effects of amphetamines. In the ACT, the powder and pills are astonishingly easy to buy and users boast of their exploits online.
Rachael Hickel, 42, whose partner, Glenn Punch, 44, died this month, described the white powder called ''Smokin' Slurrie'', which the couple bought from the Nauti & Nice adult shop in Rutherford, NSW, as an unbearable high that lasted days.
ACT Police Minister Simon Corbell said ''bath salts'' were a problem across the country.
''These new artificial substances come onto the market with one changed element to avoid the illegality of the product,'' he said.
''The problem with laws, not just in the ACT, is that they prescribe the product and whether or not it's legal based on chemical composition and a simple change to the chemical composition of these products results in them basically creating a loop hole in the law.''
He said the loop hole was on the agenda for the next state and territory police ministers meeting in two weeks. ''The bottom line is these products are still incredibly dangerous. Whilst they are marketed as a safe high the reality is we don't know what's in these products.''
Mr Corbell suggested copying New Zealand, where the onus of proof about safety is placed on the manufacturers.