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July 07, 2015
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Going after synthetic cannabinoids

RIVER VALLEY — The producers of bath salts, which also are know as synthetic drugs or synthetic cannabinoids, have been able to stay a step ahead of the drug laws by frequently changing the chemical makeup of their products ever so slightly so that the products did not match exactly any substances that were banned. Now, new laws at the state and federal level make it a crime to sell the stuff, and in Sullivan County, a local law has been proposed that would make the sale of bath salts punishable by a year in prison.

In the resolution, which would create a law, county district attorney Jim Farrell quoted the New York State Commissioner of Health as saying that the drugs can have catastrophic effects on users, which can include “paranoia, agitation, seizure, vomiting and loss of consciousness.”

At the meeting on August 2, Farrell said there is also a need to make it illegal to drive a motor vehicle while under the influence of the drugs because there is currently no such law. Farrell said the state legislature and senate both passed laws regarding synthetic drugs, but they had different language and could not be reconciled, so they did not take effect.

On August 7, however, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the Department of Health had adopted new regulations regarding the sale of synthetic drugs. In a press conference regarding the issue, he said, “In 2011, there were 39 reported emergency room visits in upstate New York as a result of bath salts. Already, in 2012, there have been 191 such visits, with 120 occurring this past June and July.”

He said that this was an old enemy in new clothes, but “whether it’s crack cocaine or methamphetamines or heroin back in the old days, this is just the newest explosion of that old enemy. And in some ways, it’s more dangerous and it’s more insidious, because this wasn’t sold in a back alley. This wasn’t sold on a street corner. This isn’t sold in the shadows. This is sold in broad daylight, over the counter in stores all across this state and across this nation.”

His announcement came just two weeks after federal agents at the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) announced the success of Operation Log Jam, when more than 90 people were arrested and more than five million packets of synthetic drugs were seized in the first-ever nationwide law enforcement action against the synthetic drug industry. More than $36 million in cash was also seized.

A press release from the DEA said, “While many of the designer drugs being marketed today that were seized as part of Operation Log Jam are not specifically prohibited in the Controlled Substances Act, the Controlled Substance Analogue Enforcement Act of 1986 allows these drugs to be treated as controlled substances if they are proven to be chemically and/or pharmacologically similar to a Schedule I or Schedule II controlled substance. A number of cases that are part of Operation Log Jam will be prosecuted federally under this analogue provision, which specifically exists to combat these new and emerging designer drugs.”