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New York counties want state to take more action against bath salts

County governments want New York state to take a tougher stand on bath salts.  The Association of Counties, meeting this week in Syracuse, is calling for a state law to criminalize the synthetic drug.Madison County is the latest county to  pass legislation making the sale and possession of bath a misdemeanor punishable by a fine and jail time -- doing so earlier this week.  And Oswego County is considering similar legislation Thursday evening. Both follow other counties and cities who have already tried to combat the designer drug epidemic with local laws.

But county official say that to really fight the bath salts epidemic that hit central New York hard this summer, the state Legislature and the governor need to take further action.  Madison County Sheriff Allen Riley says for one thing,  a state law would be harder to fight.

"The county law is basically a misdemeanor violation.  My issue is once there is an arrest, is it going to be challenged, where a state law wouldn't be challenged," said Riley.

State legislation could put bath salts in the same category as other controlled substances that are treated
as felonies for possession.

"The issue that we were having was that if one county does this, what about the surrounding counties?  Now you're on an island by yourself," said Riley.  "You really have something to enforce when people come in from
the outside, so you're really standing alone."

Oswego County legislator James Karasek agrees that with the power of the state behind law enforcement, the days of bath salt use could be history.

"What it does is it gives us a second row of teeth so when we want to clamp down on this, we have the ability to do so," Karasek said.

The New York Association of Counties has passed a resolution calling for a state law criminalizing the manufacture, distribution, sale and possession of these substances. Right now the only statewide regulations are under public health law, and don't carry the same penalties for possession of controlled substances which could lead to felony arrests.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.