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Tories seek ban on ‘bath salts’ drug after grisly U.S. face-eating attack

Minister of Health Leona Aglukkaq responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, May 16, 2012.

Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The Conservative government is moving to ban a controversial street drug linked to the grisly attack in Florida in which an assailant chewed off a portion of a man's face.

The government plans to regulate MDPV, a key ingredient in the drug known as "bath salts," Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq told a news conference Tuesday.

"This action shows our government's commitment to protecting the health and safety of Canadians from this dangerous substance," Ms. Aglukkaq said.

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"This action helps give law enforcement the tools they need to keep our streets safe from this new and emerging drug that ruins lives and causes havoc in communities across the country."

The drug, which resembles a harmless bath additive, has gained notoriety since the vicious May 26 attack in Miami, where police shot and killed a man who tore his victim's face apart with his teeth.

It's not clear why 31-year-old Rudy Eugene — a man described by family as a sweet person who didn't drink much or use hard drugs — suddenly attacked Ronald Poppo, 65, alongside a busy highway, apparently without provocation.

Surveillance video from a nearby building shows Mr. Eugene pulling Mr. Poppo from the shade, stripping and pummeling him before appearing to hunch over and then lie on top of him.

A witness described Mr. Eugene ripping at Mr. Poppo's face with his mouth and growling at a Miami police officer, who shot and killed the attacker.

Media reports suggest police and medical experts believe the bizarre attack was fuelled by MDPV, which police say is marketed as a form of ecstasy.

Ms. Aglukkaq says the government intends to add the drug to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, placing it in the same category as heroin and cocaine.

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Once the changes are approved, activities such as possession, trafficking, possession for the purpose of trafficking, importation, exportation and production would be illegal unless authorized by regulation.

Ms. Aglukkaq said the changes would also allow law enforcement agencies to take action against suspected illegal activities involving these substances.

Experts say the drug mimics the effects of certain stimulants, causing agitation and increased heart rate and blood pressure — as well as paranoia, hallucinations and aggressive behaviour.

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