OSWEGO, NY – Oswego County will conduct four public hearings on Sept. 13, commencing at 7 p.m., regarding proposed local laws to curb the spread of synthetic drugs.
The hearings will be held in the Legislative Chambers of the Oswego County Office Building, 46 E. Bridge St.
The laws are:
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.
Prior to the legislature’s vote Wednesdsay afternoon, two speakers presented opposing views on the subject.
Wayne Johnson said he has been “a responsible user of synthetic marijuana for over a year now.”
He uses it to control his chronic back pain, he explained. Before that, he was taking eight to 10 pain pills a day, he added.
“We cannot base our laws based on the action of our children. That’s what children do, they make mistakes,” he told the legislators. “People have a right to choose what products they want to use, recreational substances.”
Synthetics are no more dangerous than alcohol and cigarettes, he said, adding that “each year, over 300 people in New York die in alcohol related car accidents alone” and thousands of other died from cigarette related illnesses.
“We need as many businesses in this county as we can get right now. We should go after the adults that give the children these products. We need to keep them in the stores so you can regulate them and control the strengths of these products. It will also add costs to the taxpayers; our jails are already overcrowded,” he said. “New York has already made the chemicals they felt harmful illegal. So we need to leave it at that.”
Just because a product is legal doesn’t mean they have to use it, he added.
“It is the responsibility of the parents to teach the children how dangerous these drugs are and what the consequences are and why we have age limits on these products. You cannot punish adults for the actions of our children,” Johnson said.
Sarah Gauger also shared her story with the legislators. She had spoken the night before at the Oswego City School District’s board meeting.
She is the sister of “the latest victim of these unstable poisons.” Her brother drowned recently while under the influence of a synthetic drug.
“My brother was a great young man. He graduated from Mexico High School with an advanced Regents diploma and was enrolled at Cayuga Community College to pursue a degree in criminal justice,” she said.
He bought the synthetic drugs because they were legal and sold in a store, she noted.
However, he became addicted and “it changed his personality and ultimately caused his death,” she said, adding that he was still able to purchase them in stores even after health bans, federal bans and state bans were in place.
People of every age are using them; and, people of every age are dying from them, she said.
She thanked the legislators for their efforts, adding, “I do not want to see this happen to another family. I would like to see anybody who cares more about the money make from synthetics than they do a life be prosecuted to the fullest extent possible.”
As Gauger returned to her seat, she received a round of applause from the legislators.
Johnson received no ovation when he finished speaking.
Legislator Morris Sorbello said he was glad members of the Woolson family attended the meeting and provided first-hand input as to the tragic consequences of using these materials.
“No one realized, and I didn’t until today, that this man had passed away because he got mixed up with this stuff. I think this legislature did a great (service) by adopting these laws and hopefully preventing other people from getting involved,” he said. “I talked to Sheriff (Reuel) Todd the other night. It’s amazing, he said it’s not just young people, it’s adults that have also gotten into this material; and they are absolutely out of their minds.”
“These laws have been put together in cooperation with our law enforcement agencies, our District Attorney’s Office and the county attorney with input from everybody trying to get them more teeth to fight this problem. I don’t know if there is anything that can be strong enough to fight this problem,” said Oswego County Legislature Chair Fred Beardsley. “We want to make sure that our law enforcement gets all the tools that they need.”
Even if you take the name out of Gauger’s story, the chairman pointed out, it is still a story about “a young gentleman who graduated with honors and was going to (study criminal justice) and had a very bright future ahead of him; and was killed by something as terrible as this.”
“This is killing people. It’s killing our kids. It’s just a terrible thing that needs to be taken off the street,” Beardsley continued.
Wednesday’s meeting was called so that the legislature could legally get the public hearings on the agenda for the next legislative meeting. The intent is to put it on the floor, Beardsley said, adding that he doesn’t see any problem with it passing that night.
The laws will take affect immediately, he noted.
“The state did this through public health law. What we’re doing is criminal law,” Phil Church, Oswego County Administrator, explained.
“It’s been an age old discussion; and, yes, DWIs kill. But blood sugar levels that are too high from candy can be dangerous as well,” the chairman said.
At least alcohol and cigarettes are labeled what they are; which isn’t the case with synthetics, he pointed out.
“These drugs are killing people. They’re not ‘medical marijuana.’ (Johnson) is right. It’s America; we all have freedom of choice, as long as it’s legal. I haven’t heard of any positive results of using bath salts,” Beardsley said.
To read: “Synthetic Drugs Forum Highlights What People Don’t Know About These Fast-Moving Drugs” go to: