A local, state and federal task force has moved against three so-called "head shops" operating in Madison and Onondaga counties. The raids, and arrests, are focused on sale of designer drugs that police claim were being sold in the shops. YNN's Bill Carey says it's a problem that stretches across the nation and poses serious challenges for law enforcement.
CENTRAL NEW YORK -- The materials come in all shapes and sizes. It was designed, initially, to circumvent drug laws. But eventually, the legislation caught up with the chemistry and now synthetic marijuana and bath salts, which often mimic the effects of amphetamines, are against the law.
There is no shortage of head shops popping up in communities all across New York State. That's raised concerns for authorities who are keeping a closer eye on whether what's being sold is legal.
Just walk a few doors down from the Oneida City Police Department and you'll find the Stash House, a head shop that's been in operation for a time and under scrutiny for a time.
“I had some concerns from some of the constituents when the first head shop opened. And I explained to them, after talking with one of the investigators, that, in fact, we were keeping an eye on them as a city,” Oneida Mayor Don Hudson said.
In fact, an entire task force was keeping an eye on them. Oneida Police, State Police, the Onondaga County Sheriff's Department and the DEA. Those agencies carried out raids at Stash House locations in Oneida, Bridgeport and Brewerton seizing thousands of items and thousands of dollars in cash and money orders.
“A lot of the product here that you see is illegal substances as far as synthetic marijuana, bath salts that contain controlled substances. Some of it may be legal. A lot of it will depend on the lab tests, once they come back,” Oneida County Police Chief David Meeker Sr. said.
Two employees of Stash House, Raymond Newkirk, 43, of Kirkville, and Ashley Delaney, 18, of Oneida, were charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree.
But, while three shops were closed, many more remain in operation.
“It's a major concern right now. I don't know if it's at epidemic proportions, but it's a major concern right now and that's why we're teaming up together to handle it,” said New York State Police Lieutenant Michael Ten Eyck.
Police say there is good reason for the crackdown.
“There's medical problems. The emergency rooms are starting to get more people coming in that are under the influence of either bath salts or the synthetic marijuana. It just leads to an array of problems,” Meeker said.
Problems that police say they cannot ignore.
The two Stash House employees arrested in the raids were released after being booked on the charges. They're due back in Oneida City Court on May 25th.