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Syracuse passes bath salts ban

Ellen Abbott

Syracuse is the latest community in New York state that has banned bath salts and other synthetic drugs.  Legislators are taking a two-pronged approach to fight the substances, that can cause violent and unpredictable behavior among abusers.

First, lawmakers approved a law that makes the sale and possession of  bath salts and other synthetic drugs a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine and jail time.  Syracuse Common Councilor Jean Kessner, sponsor of the law, says this strikes at a growing problem in Syracuse.

"We have people who are disoriented, who are harmful to themselves, who are harmful to others.  And as a council we are trying to do what we can to give our police a tool so they can have a way to counter this," said Kessner.

Lawmakers also approved  a memorializing resolution, asking for a statewide ban on the drugs, because, Jean Kessner said, local laws aren't enough.

"We're waiting for leadership from the state. That's an important point to remember -- that this memorializing resolution [says], 'Please, state do something.'"

Governor Andrew Cuomo, in Utica earlier this month, said he agreed the state should do something.

"I think legislation for the state is overdue.  We have a number of initiatives that we are undertaking as are both houses of the legislature have bills and approaches," said the governor.  "I think it's going to take a new piece of legislation form the state with some muscle and commitment behind it."

Although he voted for the legislation, Syracuse Common Councilor Bob Dougherty is skeptical that these kinds of approaches work.

"We can make anything illegal, but it doesn't stop people from using it," said Dougherty. "As I mentioned, with methamphetamines, cocaine, just because it's illegal, it doesn't stop people from using it. And I think the people that oftentimes get locked up aren't the people who make money on the distribution and making the money off these things."

This law in Syraucse comes a week after Syracuse police and federal agents raided several local tobacco shops suspected of selling bath salts, as part of a nationwide series of raids.

The Syracuse law is based on laws already passed in other communities, including Utica.

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.