The Madison County Public Health Services Committee is launching efforts to ban the possession of synthetic drugs within the county borders. At this point, New York State bans the sale and distribution of synthetic drugs like the popular bath salts, but individuals are not penalized for having the drugs on their person.
The officials are still researching and looking into whether or not Madison County has the authority to pass the law, but they are hoping they can penalize people for possessing synthetic drugs sooner rather than later, as Oneida Police Chief David Meeker says they are receiving two to three calls on bath salts a day, and 10 to 15 on the weekends.
"We have to stop it and stop it now," Madison County Supervisor Lewis Carinci says. "We can't wait six or seven months from now."
"There is a sense of urgency because of what we're seeing almost on a daily basis with individuals that are high on these bath salts, and some of the effects are what I would call downright scary," Public Health Services Committee Chairman John Salka says.
If their proposal of the law was put in place, those in possession of the drugs would be penalized with a misdemeanor and slapped with a $1,000 fine. Salka is hoping the fine will scare off individuals from trying the drug.
"We would like to show the people in this county that we mean business, that by possessing these substances, you're going to put yourself at risk of arrest, an appearance ticket, and up to a thousand dollar fine," he says.
"People will look at that and say, 'I don't want to do that, that's a thousand dollars if I get caught,'" Carinci adds.
The officials are concerned about the safety of not only those who decide to use the drug, but also the crews who must deal with them as well. Chief Meeker says they have encountered individuals who were suicidal and paranoid among other bizarre reactions, and that it is very dangerous for everyone involved.
"It's something that is very dangerous," Meeker says. "It's taxing to the resources, to the police, fire and hospital paramedics and takes away from a lot of other things that people could be doing."
They are hoping that they will find out if they are allowed to make the law within the week, and are slated to present it to the Madison County Board of Supervisors during the second week in July.