Against the backdrop of growing concern among local law enforcement over the lack of state legislative action, Governor Cuomo is launching his own statewide crackdown on so-called bath salts. The synthetic drugs have been blamed in a number of bizarre cases of crime and death across Upstate New York. YNN's Bill Carey says the Governor looked to the Health Department to change some rules to allow for new, tougher action.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. – “They were just going to manufacture, in a lab, a drug and sell it over the counter. And they got away with it, for a period of time. Not anymore,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said.
The battle has been developing for the past few years. Head shops and other retail stores selling synthetic drugs. Each time a substance was ruled illegal, the formula and name were changed and the stores were back in business.
The governor was traveling the state saying a new regulation, put into effect by the state health department, would put an end to that.
Cuomo said, “It is illegal to sell or to possess this substance, or substances derived from these compounds, period. It's illegal.”
Police and prosecutors vowing to make sure the new regulation is strictly enforced.
“The state and locals will be enforcing the Commissioner's regulation. We still have a number of the chemicals that are outlawed under the penal law. And the federal government will continue to do their effort as well. This is bad stuff and we all have to work on it,” said Joseph D’Amico, State Police Superintendent.
Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick said, “You've got to be nuts to be selling this stuff, because you've got the Governor, the Attorney General, the District Attorney, the State Police, the city police, the Sheriff and a lot of other people that are going to be very upset with you. And where I grew up, that's not a good formula for success.”
District attorneys across the state still want to see state legislation, on the books, outlawing bath salts and other synthetic drugs. They're hoping to see the Senate and Assembly agree on a measure and pass it as quickly as possible.
Cuomo says the explosion of cases involving the materials forced his hand.
“Poison. That's what this is. It's poison. It's illegal drugs. Bath salts. It has nothing to do with a bath. It has nothing to do with salt. Designer drugs. It has nothing to do with any designer. It's not cool. It's not hip. Synthetic marijuana. It's poison. That's what it is. It is just an illegal drug. It's an old enemy with a new face and a new tactic,” Cuomo said.
The governor says it's just the latest chapter in the long story of the war on drugs. He says the chapter has just be rewritten.
The new State Health Department rules allow for criminal penalties of up to 15 days in jail and fines up to $500 for anyone selling or possessing the material. It can bring civil penalties of up to $2,000 per violation.