OSWEGO, NY – At its meeting Thursday night, the Oswego County Legislature approved four local laws regarding synthetic drugs.
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, a half dozen speakers presented opposing views on the subject.
Steve Olson, director of Oswego Hospital’s emergency department, urged the lawmakers to pass all four local laws.
Synthetic drugs are “a serious health issue,” he told the legislators. “I myself have seen firsthand the patients under the influence of these substances. Often times, you ask the patient what did they do and they say, ‘I am not really sure.'”
Teresa Woolson recalled how her son had gotten involved with these substances and it cost him his life.
“My son was struggling with synthetics for a very short time. In early August, he found out from a friend that these synthetics were still available” she said. “He walked into a store (in Oswego) and bought the stuff over the counter; two and a half hours before his body was pulled from Lake Ontario.”
Synthetics are poisons, she said, adding that they are “500 times more potent than street drugs.”
“We have a real crisis in our community and it is becoming an epidemic,” she warned.
Duane Crapser of Oswego said he has “had the pleasure of being thrown out of a local head shop downtown” because he went in to discuss their sale of pipes to minors.
He reached out to local enforcement “with no luck whatsoever.” The city of Oswego, the Oswego High School both turned a blind eye, he claimed.
“So now I am here for the county. I would like to see not only these drugs removed from the streets, but these places that selling these pipes need to go also. If you have to 18 years old to purchase these pipes, why don’t you need to be 18 to walk in the door? The pipes need to go, the stores need to go.”
Children have to walk through cigarette smoke to access county buildings, he said.
“We need to outlaw smoking on county property. If we’re going to start here, let’s go all the way. You want it to be a healthy county? Let’s make it a healthy county.”
These drugs destroyed her life, Sarah Gauger said. It was her brother who died in Lake Ontario after using them, she explained.
“He got what doctors said was ‘appropriate help.’ But no one could help him; because there are no answers. I did everything I possibly could have done to help him,” she added.
If the synthetic drugs were removed from store shelves, “then my brother wouldn’t have been able to walk into a store here in Oswego and purchase it. Had that been prevented by the ban, my brother would still be here today.”
The people working in the stores are just as responsible as the store owners, she continued.
“I cannot get my brother back. But, hopefully, we as a community, can save someone else’s,” she said.
Bonnie Caza asked the legislators to make the laws retro-active to Aug. 1 “so that the people that murdered my nephew can be punished.”
Wayne Johnson said he has been “a responsible user of synthetic marijuana for over a year now.”
Many dangerous drugs are illegal. But can easily be found on street corners, he said.
“Marijuana was made illegal in 1950. Now, six decades later, we have proof that marijuana can prevent and cure cancer,” he told the legislature. “Cancer is caused by legal drugs such as cigarettes and alcohol. Yet even today they will not legalize marijuana simply because they do not know how to profit from it.”
Synthetic marijuana is used to control chronic pain and “should remain in stores where they can be regulated and not on the street corner where they can be mixed with who knows what,” he said.
They want to make synthetics illegal because they do not know the long-term effects, he said.
“Well, we do know the ling-term effects of both cigarettes and alcohol. They cause lung cancer, lung diseases, heart and liver disease. Yet, these products are still legal and under-age usage is on the rise. Alcohol is the most dangerous drug of all of them. Earlier this summer, we had four young men lose their lives in an alcohol-related accident up by the speedway (four were involved, but just three actually died). Every year, 300 New Yorkers lose their lives this way. Yet you sit there on your thumbs and you do nothing to support these families or make sure that it doesn’t happen to anyone in the future.”
By passing these laws it will make the county jail more over-crowded, which would mean more money being spent house prisoners in other facilities, he said pointing out the county has already spent close to $1 million on this problem.
“If you are so sure that the county residents want these products illegal, let them vote on it,” he urged the legislators. “But if you pass these laws, then be prepared, every liquor store and bar in the county should also be closed.”