Calling it a “scourge on our society,” state Sen. Joseph Griffo, R/C/I-47 of Rome, said Thursday that he wants to see tougher legislation on hallucinogenic bath salts, nearly a year after the state passed its own legislation banning the substance.
Griffo made this announcement on the same day Herkimer Village Police arrested a Tebb’s Head Shop employee for selling the synthetic drug.
“What we are seeing in recent days is a dramatic upsurge in incidents in which the violent, bizarre behavior of individuals who have confronted the police is being linked to their use of these drugs,” said Griffo in a statement.
He said he wants to work with the state senate, state assembly and governor’s office to “develop and pass legislation that will make the use and sale of this drug a felony.”
In 2011, Griffo co-authored legislation that criminalized the sale of “bath salt” products that contained Mephedrone and MDPV, which was signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in July 2011. He said the trouble law enforcement and prosecutors have had is the chemists making the drugs then alter the contents to make the substance legal under the state law.
“They are the Lex Luthors of chemistry and we need to put them out of business,” he said. “...We want to close the loopholes.”
Griffo noted that the bath salts they are referring to are not the aromatic ones used for a bath, but rather a synthetic drug. He said use of this drug can cause “paranoia, hallucinations, delusions, agitation, hypertension, chest pain, headache and suicidal thoughts when smoked, snorted or injected.”
“They’re cheaper and easier to purchase, are very powerful, and they’re available in smoke shops and online,” said Griffo during a press conference at the State Office Building in Utica.
Some of the names for bath salts are sold under include White Rush, Bolivian Bath and Vanilla Sky, and many others.
Some municipalities have adopted their own local laws to prohibit the sale or use of synthetic drugs, including the Village of Herkimer.
On Thursday, Inv. Jeffrey Crim with the Herkimer Police Department stated that Alexander I. Grzesik, 30, of Utica, was ticketed for possession of a synthetic substance under the local law. Grzesik, an employee at Tebb’s Head Shop, was ticketed for possession of a synthetic substance. Police seized more than 200 packages of a produce being sold as glass cleaner. They also seized a quantity of synthetic marijuana, sold as potpourri.
There have been a sharp increase in reported bath salts incidents throughout the region over the past several months.
Earlier this week, an Oppenheim man underwent a mental health evaluation after possessing weapons and shouting during the early morning hours in front of his father’s home in Dolgeville. Officials are trying to confirm if bath salts were involved, as reported by neighbors.
Page 2 of 2 - On May 29, a Herkimer man was arrested after he reportedly assaulted a security officer at Faxton-St. Luke’s Healthcare in New Hartford while he was reportedly under the influence of “bath salts.”
Madison County Sheriff Allen Riley spoke about an incident earlier this month when a woman — who was assaulting her child and growling — died after she was Tasered by State Police. It was later learned the woman was high on bath salts.
“From what I’ve learned, with bath salts, the composite is changing all the time and it’s hard to get prosecution going,” he said during Thursday’s press conference. “This is going to be an epidemic if we don’t jump on it.”
Griffo said that the number of bath salts incidents reported to the American Poison Control was 20 times higher in 2011 then in the previous year.
“We’ve been talking about how to draft a meaningful piece of legislation,” said state Assemblyman Marc Butler, R/I/C-117 of Newport, during a telephone interview on Thursday. “If we ban it, they’re likely to come out with something similar the next week. That’s one of the problems we are facing right now.”
Butler said he believes that since the legislature is out of session, a bill on bath salts will likely not be passed until after Jan. 1, 2013.
“We have time to research it and do it right,” he said. “If we can find the major key, I would like to support it.”