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October 15, 2012

Synthetic Drug Laws Take Effect in Oswego County

OSWEGO COUNTY - The four new local laws related to synthetic drugs that were passed by the Oswego County Legislature at their September meeting took effect on Friday, September 21 after filing with the Office of the Secretary of State in Albany.

"Enacting these laws is a good starting point to help us protect the health, safety and welfare of our residents," said Oswego County Legislature Chairman Fred Beardsley. "They allow us some control over these issues until state and federal governments take action, which we expect will happen by the end of the year."

Court representatives, law enforcement officials and community members have added their voices in support of the actions taken by Oswego County.

"I'm very pleased with the Legislature's swift response to the bath salt and synthetic drug epidemic," said Oswego County District Attorney Gregory S. Oakes. "Since this new law has taken effect, the Oswego County Drug Task Force has received additional information that they can act upon to keep these dangerous chemicals off the street. It's my hope that the state legislature follows suit, perhaps creating a felony offense for the sale of these poisons."

Oswego County Sheriff Reuel A. Todd echoed this sentiment by stating that, "I'm proud of the county's efforts to tackle this issue here and now. These laws not only give law enforcement officers on the front lines the tools they need to combat this terrible problem, but also send a clear message that the use and sale of synthetic drugs will not be tolerated in Oswego County. Through active enforcement of these laws, we expect to see a reduction in the availability of synthetic drugs throughout the county."

Oswego Health President and CEO Ann C. Gilpin added, "Sadly, we have seen the effects of bath salts on our community. These individuals are cared for in our emergency room, intensive care unit, and behavioral health services, as well as other clinical areas within our health system. We consider this a serious health issue and are thankful to the Legislature for taking the decisive action to develop these four new laws that could help end this problem."

Two of the laws, Local Law Number 3 and Number 6, prohibit the sale and possession of synthetic drugs such as psychoactive bath salts, herbal incense and hallucinogens, as well as salvia divinorum, a psychoactive herb whose long-term effects are unknown, but has been shown to cause dysphoria, which indicates an increased risk of suicide.

Chairman Beardsley said, "Some people may try to get around these laws by changing the combination of ingredients used to make up the drug. However, these local laws are written with a broader scope which includes a ban of similar substances or variations of any kind."

Another law, Local Law Number 4, addresses the issue of drug test tampering by prohibiting the sale, distribution and use of drug and alcohol screening test adulterants and synthetic urine.

"These 'masking products' are widely used to defraud or defeat drug and alcohol screening tests," said Beardsley. "It occurs most often with those on probation or who are subject to regular drug testing by employers, such as CDL-licensed drivers."

These screenings have become common practice in many workplaces. In particular, the federal Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act of 1991 requires drug and alcohol testing of safety-sensitive transportation employees in aviation, trucking, railroads and mass transportation. At a local level, people in certain positions are also required to undergo testing.

Beardsley added, "They include the bus drivers who drive our children to and from school, snow plow drivers and those who operate or work at local nuclear power plants. In addition, the county spends thousands of dollars every year administering drug tests for people on probation and other court ordered treatment or supervision programs."

Local Law Number 5 establishes a synthetic drugs public nuisance abatement law. This penalizes the property owner if it is found that synthetic drugs or similar substances are being made, repackaged or mislabeled, sold or distributed on the premises, whether it is a business or a residence. Simply labeling a product as "not safe for human consumption" does not provide protection from this law. "It is clear to the Oswego County Legislature that the sale or manufacturing of synthetic drugs constitutes a public nuisance," said Chairman Beardsley. "You only need ask law enforcement, the neighbors of the properties where these substances are being sold or the family members of those using substances. Like other illegal drugs, synthetic drugs negatively affect property values, the community environment and quality of life, and the health, safety and welfare of county residents and visitors alike."

Violations of Local Law Number 3, Number 4 and Number 6 are, upon conviction, misdemeanors and punishable by up to a year in jail or a $1,000 fine or both. A violation of Local Law Number 5 can result, after a hearing, in a civil penalty of up to $5,000 and an order directing the closure of the property involved in the nuisance.

Anyone with information about drug related offenses is encouraged to call the Oswego County Drug Force anonymous tip line at 315-349-8222 or 888-728-9535.


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