Sen. Griffo pushes more stringent synthetic drug law

The state needs a tougher law to crack down on synthetic drugs, says state Sen. Joseph A. Griffo.

Flanked by area law enforcement officials, Griffo called for a better ban on "bath salts" at news conference Thursday. He said the drug manufacturers are subverting the law enacted last year by altering the formulas of their products that are often sold at head shops and convenience stores, as well as online, as hygiene products, incense or plant food. They can trigger bizarre and violent behavior. He wants loopholes closed through a law that would cover a wide range of substances used to make bath salts.

Additionally, he wants criminal sanctions added to make it a felony to sell such drugs to a minor or on school grounds.

"What we are finding since the law took effect is that more action is needed because of the incidents taking place across Central New York," said the senator, R-47, Rome, who introduced the 2011 bill that became law.

Griffo said synthetic drugs known as bath salts are not the same as aromatic bath salts. "They contain a potentially lethal mix of synthetic drugs and serve no purpose other than to get the user high," he said.

"... what we are seeing in recent days is a dramatic upsurge in incidents in which the violent, bizarre behavior of individuals who have confronted the police is being linked to their use of these drugs," the senator said.

The Upstate New York Poison Center has received 198 cases of reported incidents related to bath salts so far this year, reported Griffo. He noted there have been 36 cases already this year in Oneida County compared with eight in all of 2011.

Among those at the news conference at the State Office Building in Utica were Rome Police Capt. Edward Stevens, Sheriff Robert M. Maciol and District Attorney Scott D. McNamara.

"Last year’s law was a good start in addressing the growing problem, however, the incidents of violence continue," said Stevens. "The new legislation being proposed will hopefully close the loopholes that have been used to avoid the criminality of the initial law to include making the possession of the substance illegal."

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama is expected to sign into law a mammoth bill passed by Congress Tuesday that has a synthetic drug component. It would ban 28 chemicals used in bath salts. It duplicates at the federal level the law adopted in New York last year, said Griffo.