OSWEGO, NY – Oswego County continues to be proactive in fighting the scourge of synthetic drugs.
A special meeting of the Oswego County Legislature has been called for Aug. 29 at noon in the Legislative Chambers of the Oswego County Office Building, 46 E. Bridge St.
The purpose of the meeting is to schedule public hearings on the following proposed laws:
Local Law #3 of 2012: A local law prohibiting the sale and possession of psychoactive bath salts, psychoactive herbal incense and synthetic hallucinogens within the county of Oswego.
Local Law #4 of 2012: A local law prohibiting the sale, distribution and use of drug and alcohol screening test adulterants and synthetic urine.
Local Law #5 of 2012: The Synthetic Drugs Public Nuisance Abatement Law.
Local Law #6 of 2012: A local law prohibiting the sale and possession of salvia divinorum within the county of Oswego.
The recent skyrocketing of synthetic drug use has caused an increase in cases in Oswego County Court.
“The problem isn’t necessarily the bath salts themselves. The problem is what they make people do,” Mark Moody, Chief Assistant District Attorney, told Oswego County Today. “So they’re clogging the system; but not because there are a bunch of people charged with possession of bath salts. People who are under the influence of bath salts are committing additional crimes.”
What kind of crimes are they seeing?
“We’re seeing various burglaries. We’re seeing several cases, too, where people high on bath salts are wandering into other people’s homes for unexplainable reasons. Not, as you might imagine, to commit crimes, but because they become unfocused. In one case, an individual high on bath salts had the delusion or hallucination that someone was chasing him and he needed a place to hide,” Moody said.
Possession of bath salts is not recognized as a crime within the penal code. So, what kind of charge do those in possession of bath salts face, and why can’t it be a criminal charge?
“The bath salts are synthetic, meaning they are chemically manufactured. Those that manufacture these drugs (China) change the chemical composition of them. They change a molecule or compound. Changing it isn’t necessary illegal. All of the illegal drugs are listed under the public health law in what they call a ‘schedule.’ The two scheduled drugs that are commonly referred to as bath salts are the synthetic drugs that are at the core of what people use to make bath salts,” the ADA explained. “But because of the molecule or compound change, when they are chemically tested, they don’t meet the illegal drug portion of the synthetic drug under the schedule anymore.”
What the public health law did was make it a violation of the public health law to possess any of the drugs derived (the analogs) from those scheduled synthetic drugs.
“In other words, their chemical composition doesn’t make it a controlled substance under the Penal Law of New York. So it’s not necessarily a crime. They are, however, in violation of the public health law,” Moody said. “The shops that were seeing that sell it are in violation of the public health law and they can be punished by the health department, depending on what they’re doing. They can be fined or eventually shut down.”
The term bath salts started to pop up on the DA’s Office’s radar 10 months to a year ago.
They weren’t as prevalent at that point, Moody said, adding it was a very small minority of crimes that they were seeing that had any involvement with bath salts.
“This was in part because of their availability. They were much more available. Until the public health law was passed, you could find them in more head shops, tobacco places and some gas stations. Because they were so available, an explosion of use took place,” he said.
Does the sentence change for those who commit crimes while high on bath salts?
“Committing a crime when you’re high on bath salts doesn’t change the crime itself. In other words, if you bite someone’s’ fingers off, you’re going to get the same charge whether or not you were high on bath salts,” Moody said.
Why can’t a penal charge include use of bath salts that include chemicals that fall under the penal code?
“The US Congress, a number of years ago, passed what is called the Federal Analog Drug Act, which makes those drugs and their analogs (or derivatives) illegal. New York State has never done that,” Moody said. “Sometime in July, federal authorities nationwide did a very wide sweep of various bath salts and synthetic drugs under the federal analog act.”
Do the federal authorities have the manpower to check every town and village to charge those that sell synthetic drugs criminally?
“Federal prosecutors can speak to why they can’t enforce the law in smaller town and villages. But, my suspicion is that the federal authorities nationwide don’t have the manpower to go into every town or village head shop or tobacco shop or gas station to enforce the criminality of the law,” Moody said.
“I would say, as just a matter of public safety, if you or someone you know is engaging in the use of bath salts, think again. The effects are so dangerously extreme that you just don’t know what can happen. You only have to read the news to learn about somebody that has committed a crime or killed themselves under the influence of bath salts. The police run into a lot of overdoses or people who hurt themselves while under the influence of these drugs,” Moody warned.
If you suspect drug activity, you may call 911 or the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration at its field office in Syracuse at 315-426-5300 or (212) 337-3900 to make a report.
To learn more about prevention and read stories of teenage drug use and how to recognize the signs, visit http://www.getsmartaboutdrugs.com
You can contact Upstate Poison Control Center at http://www.upstate.edu/poison/ or call 1800-222-1222 to speak to a professional about the effects of synthetic drugs.
Governor Cuomo has also announced a toll-free hotline, 1-888-99SALTS, which people can use to report usage and sale of bath salts or other synthetic drugs.
(Joleene DesRosiers Moody provided information for this report)