Incense or dangerous drug? Oswego County asks for help in banning synthetic drugs

On Thursday night the Oswego County Legislature asked for help from state and federal governments in banning the manufacture, sale and possession of "dangerous unregulated natural and synthetic drugs." The drugs aren't as well known as marijuana, cocaine or heroin but doctors say they can carry serious health risks.

In Oswego a lot of the concern centers on a substance called "Happy Shaman." It is sold as incense and is currently legal but the local hospital has been treating teenagers who have had side effects from using it. The law passed Thursday by the Oswego county legislature wouldn't ban the sale of Happy Shaman but advocates also hope the law will raise awareness of this fast growing segment of drug use.

Many parents are just learning about it, but "Happy Shaman" and similar incense products are already well known to Oswego County teens.

"It's another way to get weed. If you can't find weed you smoke Happy Shaman," said 22-year-old Brian Dunsmore.

Dunsmore said he wants nothing to do with a drug known to cause hallucinations but admitted many of his friends smoke "Happy Shaman." Health advocates say it's a synthetic drug - leaves sprayed with chemicals and sold as incense. spoke to a young woman who used to work in a shop that sold "Happy Shaman." She asked us not to reveal her identity of the location of the store she worked at. She said that she had doubts about "Happy Shaman" and other products when people were buying them.

"Of course I would have to promote it but I could never tell them - don't smoke that - but I wanted to," she said on Friday afternoon.

She also described seeing customers smoking "Happy Shaman" on the sidewalk or just before they got in a car and drove away.

"I've seen what chemicals they've used in it and it's not right. I don't think it should be legal," she said.

Health advocates say makers of synthetic drugs can stay ahead of most laws just by changing up the combination of chemicals they spray on the leaves.

"Once you ban one particular synthetic - say JWH-018, a variation of that may come into play," said Jeanne Unger from Farnham Family Services.

State Assemblyman Will Barclay says the state is looking into the rapidly changing world of synthetic drugs.

"It really is kind of a tragedy and it might be the next generation of drugs for the United States. It really is a problem and the sooner we can nip this in the bud, the better off we'll be," said Barclay.

On Friday the woman who used to sell "Happy Shaman" at a store in Oswego county, said she now hopes teens will stay away from it.

"I have a son and I never want him to be able to buy that legally."

Assemblyman Barclay says regulations for synthetic drugs will have to be carefully researched and worded so they don't interfere with legitimate drugs for medical use.