Although synthetic drugs are now illegal in New York under public health law, municipalities are still moving forward with their own measures to go after the drugs. Our Kat De Maria highlights efforts in Cayuga and Onondaga counties, the latter of which passed a bath salts ban Tuesday.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- While Onondaga County lawmakers were passing a measure urging state leaders to take action against synthetic drugs, including the ones known as bath salts, the governor was blocks away doing just that.
As Governor Cuomo announced in Syracuse Tuesday, the drugs are now illegal under state public health law. But that didn't stop legislators from also passing their own local law banning them.
"Law enforcement, they can go into these head shops, they can take the products, they can test the products and see if these products are there. And if they are, they are facing a misdemeanor," said Chairman Ryan McMahon.
Cayuga County's District Attorney is working on something very similar, on its way to that legislature. Both include language to cover what are known as analogs, chemicals like the ones currently in synthetic drugs.
"We sort of synthesized what the federal government and some other counties and jurisdictions had been doing identifying agonists and receptors and chemical analogs and salts and isomers and putting it under one package that could be flexible so that as the manufacturers change their chemical components, this law would still affect it," said DA Jon Budelmann.
The two counties' laws and several others passed in cities and towns throughout Central New York, are not in vain. The new state measure carries a penalty of up to 15 days in jail, whereas Cayuga and Onondaga's laws can lock people up for up to a year.
"To the extent the local governments have been stepping up to the plate I applaud their actions. Because they saw it first," said Governor Andrew Cuomo.
In addition to the local law, Onondaga County lawmakers also are working on something unique: The Be Safe program to bring education about synthetic drugs to schools.
"There's a significant block of the community, young males ages 20 to 40, that are using bath salts. However, all of the medical experts, the poison control experts and prevention advisers have told me their greatest fear for increased spread of use is high school children and secondary children," said Legislator Pat Kilmartin, who created Be Safe.
While Onondaga County lawmakers work to develop that program, they and others are looking to the state legislature for a comprehensive, blanket bath salts law, one they've been unable to pass thus far but could next session.