The State Health Department banned the sale of bath salts last month, but law enforcement officials say substances with similar effects are still making it to shelves legally. They say manufacturers are changing their chemical makeup faster than laws can keep up. Now community members say they want the drugs taken off the streets once and for all. Sarah Blazonis was there as they called for action.
MADISON COUNTY, N.Y. -- Their numbers may have been small, but their message was loud and clear.
"Keep it off the streets!" yelled one protester.
Protesters stood outside of Tebb's Head Shop and the Stash House on Main Street in Oneida for much of the day Friday. They say they want the stores to stop selling synthetic drugs, particularly bath salts.
"It's huge. It's huge," said Amanda Thomas, who organized the protest. "The way they market it is they say it's the same thing, but it's legal, it's safe."
Many say they know people affected by the drug. Some knew Pamela McCarthy, who State Police say choked and beat her son during an incident earlier this week.
"She's a very good mother. It took her forever to get pregnant with her child. She would never hurt her child in any way except for the bath salts that made her do this," said McCarthy's friend, Cindy Garlock.
Both stores display signs warning against illegal use of their products, and packages advertise they're made without mephedrone and MDPV, which were added to the state's list of controlled substances last year.
City police say such warnings don't seem to have much of an impact.
"We get at least a report a day of someone acting bizarre or unusual because they've taken bath salts," said Oneida Police Chief David Meeker.
The owner of the Stash House says all of his products are 100 percent legal. Oneida Police say this is part of the problem. Manufacturers continue to change ingredients in the substances, making them harder to control.
"You need something that's going to address all synthetic drugs, that if it's not for medical purposes, it's not a legitimate drug or for a legitimate purpose, then they can't sell it," said Chief Meeker.
Lawmakers say this loophole is also a challenge in developing a county law to fight bath salts, but they are working on developing legislation.