October 28, 2012

Editorial: Small steps to combat drugs

Amid what seems like a never-ending stream of meth-lab arrests come signs of progress against substance abuse in this region.

The Press-Republican has been peppered with news of meth arrests in recent months. That should be considered good news because it means police are tracking down the people concocting this dangerous drug.

Chalk the arrests up to good investigative work, reports from fed-up citizens, defendants who squeal on fellow druggies and sometimes just luck — as in the most recent arrest where police spotted smoke and decided to investigate.

One online commenter suggested the newspaper stop reporting the arrests because they give this area a bad name. On the contrary, they show that law-enforcement personnel around here are serious about reducing illegal drug use.

They are getting help from lawmakers, like the Clinton County Legislature, who recently made it illegal to possess the synthetic drugs that had been sold in some local convenience stores under such names as bath salts, K2 and Spice. The state had already banned sale of these items, but the accompanying fines didn’t pose enough of a threat.

Legislators had hoped store owners would, out of a sense of civic responsibility, stop selling these chemical-packed drugs, which have been shown to sometimes cause dangerous reactions in users. But some businesses decided the profit from sales was worth the chance of fines.

So the County Legislature got tough and passed its own law, making it a misdemeanor to possess these synthetic drugs, with the threat of up to a year of jail time.

Police and health officials were reacting to an increase in use of these once-legal drugs — and an accompanying rise in serious health problems. County Legislator John Gallagher, a longtime educator in this area, said the fake drugs are even being used by middle-school-age children, which he aptly described as “scary.”

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