County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. is saying no to stimulants known as "bath salts" and wants the Board of Legislators to adopt a countywide ordinance to ban the synthetic drugs.
His proposal comes in response to the growing popularity of compounds designed to mimic the effects of various illegal substances, particularly marijuana and amphetamines. Picente said the local law incorporates state, federal and local provisions and will help establish a uniform tough standard all across the county.
"What we are seeing is an epidemic of illegal drug use that is not only taxing our law enforcement agencies, it is imperiling the individuals who use these drugs and the people who come into contact with them while they are under the effects of these drugs," said Picente. "I am personally alarmed at the extent to which these drugs promote violent and bizarre behavior that is not only self-destructive, but also potentially dangerous to those around them."
The drugs are often sold at small stores in misleading packaging that suggests common household items like bath salts, incense and plant food. But the substances inside are powerful, mind-altering drugs that have been linked to bizarre and violent behavior across the country. Law enforcement officials refer to the drugs collectively as "bath salts," though they have nothing in common with the fragrant toiletries used to moisturize skin.
District Attorney Scott D. McNamara said he supports a firm response to the rise in "bath salts" incidents.
"This law is an important tool in our efforts to prevent the spread and use of illegal and harmful substances," he said. "It will be a great benefit to law enforcement to have a county law on the books that will allow us to prosecute these cases and curb the harmful results that have been seen from the use of these synthetic drug."
One county lawmaker responded favorably to Picente’s proposal.
"After reviewing the legislation he has presented, I am confident that the Oneida County Board of Legislators will indeed pass this law," said Legislator Harmony Speciale, D-22, Utica, in a statement release just a few hours after the county executive’s announcement. "I, personally, approve and support this comprehensive and legally enforceable legislation.
"To ensure Oneida County continues to stay current with any changes in chemical makeup and marketing of these dangerous synthetic drugs, I will continue my advocacy and efforts to see that this legislation is frequently amended as needed to protect our communities."
Over the last two years, the U.S. has seen a surge in the use of synthetic drugs made of legal chemicals that mimic the dangerous effects of cocaine, amphetamines and other illegal stimulants. Rome and Utica have already enacted bans on certain synthetic drugs, as have the state and federal governments.
At least two shops, one in Rome and the other in Utica, were raided Wednesday as part of a larger operation involving the federal Drug Enforcement Administration. Raids were conducted throughout Central New York and the nation following the recent passage of a federal law banning the ingredients found in some synthetic drugs.
"On a local level, my colleagues and I have been working diligently to create a more comprehensive law to incorporate all of Oneida County, creating more uniformity and stiffer penalties for the sale, distribution, and possession of synthetic drugs," said Speciale. "This local law will be enforced throughout all municipalities within Oneida County to minimize confusion as to what substances are banned from use and distribution and the legal ramifications."
A major problem for law enforcement officials has been the ease with which variants are produced as soon as old ones are regulated. The range of possible chemistries is so vast that prohibitions on particular chemical structures can easily be evaded by molecular recombinations.