UPDATE: First step taken in banning bath salts

UPDATE: Wednesday March 2nd at 4:00 a.m.:

A state house lawmaker is sponsoring legislation to ban bath salts.| The bill would make possessig the drugs a class C felony. It also would expand a ban on synthetic drugs. Last year, a law passed banning K2. This bill would ban all similar synthetic drugs. UPDATE: Thursday Feb. 24th at 10:15 a.m.: Lawmakers are set to make another run at outlawing some synthetic drugs.Last year, Missouri was among more than dozen states that banned a synthetic form of marijuana known as K2. But before the law even took effect, alternatives were hitting the market that had made slight changes to the synthetic formula and thus got around the new law.Republican Representative Ward Franz of West Plains is sponsoring legislation this year that would add more synthetic cannabinoids to the outlawed list. The bill also would outlaw a synthetic form of cocaine that is being sold as bath salts in some Missouri stores. The Drug Bill is HB641. UPDATE: Friday, Feb. 11, 1:53 p.m.: KRCG checked in with Louisiana, which was one of the first states to ban the sale of bath salts. Emergency rooms are reporting a significant reduction in cases since the ban began.

In the five weeks leading up to the ban in Louisiana, poison control logged 131 cases of bath salt overdoses. In the five weeks since the ban, only 13 cases have been reported.Louisiana still has the most cases of bath salt ingestion, but other states are gaining fast including Florida and Missouri.The bath salts hit the market with an explosion at the end of 2010. They showed up in gas stations, smoke shops and convenience stores.In early January, Lousiana Governor Bobby Jindal declared the chemical inside the bath salts illegal."We recognize this is such a unique and serious danger to the children of Louisiana that we knew that it was important for us to act as quickly as possible, Jindal said.Louisiana officials say getting the bath salts off of store shelves was key to stopping the rise in cases. But police warn that there is still a black market for the product in Louisiana and that distributors and producers are working hard to keep moving the product. Original Story: Authorities say it is deadlier than cocaine, and it's legal.

Drug users across the country and in mid-Missouri are getting a high from bath salts.

They're paying up to $35 a package for bath salts containing synthetic chemicals, which produce a high similar to meth.

Centralia police arrested 3 men after they mixed the synthetic drug with real meth and sold the illegal mixture to undercover officers in the Centralia High School parking lot.

"It's our understanding that it can, and is in some instances, also laced with cocaine," Police Chief Larry Dudgeon explained. "In our case, it was laced with methampethamines."

The owners of Columbia's Bocomo Bay Smoke Shop refuse to sell the salts, but that's not stopping their customers from asking for it.

"We get calls constantly. Constantly calls for it," stressed manager John Hawkins.

KRCG did some check and found the only smoke shop in Columbia selling the bath salts is RetroActive. The owners of the store wouldn't allow the manager to go on camera, but on the store's Facebook we found how much the store is charging for the synthetic drug.

A 250 milligram package of White Rush was selling for $21.

A Facebook entry posted January 19 on RetroActive's page makes it clear the store will continue selling the bath salts.

"White Rush WILL NOT be discontinued any longer. We will be selling it as long as we can now."

Members of the Columbia Police Department's narcotics unit say they are seeing bath salts turn up at mid-Missouri parties and bars.

"We've some reports of people with intentional overdoses. We've had a few of those that I am aware of," Detective Jeff Jones recalled.

Until a ban goes into effect in Missouri, there's nothing police can do about the legal substance.

The St. Louis-area city of Troy banned the salts. Three other states enacted an emergency ban: Louisiana, North Dakota, and Florida. Another 3 states, Hawaii, Kentucky, and Mississippi, have bills pending.

The bath salts sell under the names Ivory Wave, Aura, Zoom 2, Cosmic Blast, and White Rush.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.