The war on bath salts in New York state has some new tools. Newly announced state Department of Health regulations mean tougher penalties and more local involvement in prosecuting those who sell or possess the substances.
Governor Andrew Cuomo describes the new regulations simply.
"It is illegal to sell or possess this substance or substances derived from these compounds. Period. It's illegal."
The new regulations issued by the New York Department of Health after an emergency meeting yesterday, expand the list of prohibited drugs that can make bath salts and other designer drugs.
Cuomo, in Syracuse as one of three stops across the state Tuesday, said the new rules also stiffen fines and jail time for those found selling or possessing bath salts.
"It's punishable by up to 15 days in jail and civil money penalties. If there is a repeat offender as an establishment, the Department of Health has the power to shut that establishment down. So these are very clear and strict regulations and they will be enforced," Cuomo said.
The governor says this fight is a continuation of the war on drugs, but the difference is the action isn't taking place in dark alleyways.
"This tactic is, they're going to sell it right over the counter," said Cuomo. "Commercial industries are going to sell illegal drugs in fancy envelopes with misleading names and a lot of color. And it is the illegal drug industry commercialized."
These new regulations will allow local law enforcement officials for the first time to go after those who use or sell bath salts, and have the cases prosecuted by local district attorneys.
The health department will also conduct a public information campaign about bath salts, because Cuomo says many people still don't know how dangerous they are.
The use of the designer drugs called anything from "ivory wave" to "white lightning" has exploded on New York's scene in recent months, with some abusers becoming increasingly violent, and vicious.
Almost 200 cases of bath salt use have been reported to the Upstate New York Poison Control Center already this year, with more than 100 of those calls coming to counties in central New York.