Bath salts task force wants stronger laws against synthetic drugs

The Madison County Task Force on Bath Salts is calling upon the Governor and State Legislature to enact tougher laws against synthetic drugs.

The task force, made up of representatives of law enforcement, health care and education met Thursday at Oneida Healthcare and agreed to draft a letter which will be sent to Albany.

The meeting was the first since Governor Andrew Cuomo declared the sale and possession of synthetic drugs was illegal by making it a violation under state health law. The Chairman of the Madison County Bath Salts Task Force, Gene Morreale, says more needs to be done.

"It's a step in the right direction," Morreale told CNY Central's Jim Kenyon. "We're not where we need to be yet because there needs to be more focus on this being a serious crime, not just a minor penalty for possession and for use."

Madison county made national headlines in June when a Munnsville woman, violent, naked and high on bath salts, died after being tasered by State Police. District Attorney Bill Gabor wants the sale and possession of bath salts to become a felony crime.

"Make it serious and costly for the people selling this stuff to continue doing it and if we can't, then we need to put them where they belong." Gabor said.

The letter will also make officials in Albany aware of the problem of lab tests for synthetic drugs. Oneida City Police Chief David Meeker says he's still waiting for lab results of materials seized when his department raided the Stash House head shop last May.

Meeker says the State Police crime lab is so backed up, synthetic drugs are sent out to private labs for which local police departments are charged $1300 per sample.

"There should be something that allows us to enforce it without having to go through lab tests. If they do have to do it afterwards for a (criminal) case, then I think the defendant should have to cover the costs," Meeker said.

Chief Meeker says at a cost of $1300 for each laboratory analysis, it's cost make it prohibitive to enforce the new state regulations when the violation only carries a $500 fine.

The task force has reported progress in its fight against synthetic drugs. According to Morreale, who is also the CEO of Oneida Healthcare, the number of patients entering the facility suffering from overdoses has dropped significantly in recent weeks.

Morreale says in June through mid-July, an average of 5 patients were admitted to the intensive care unit for abusing synthetic drugs, but since July 18th, the facility has treated only one such patient.

Morreale feels the reduction is the combined result of a community education program and the recent crackdown on area head shops.