Recent federal action is expected to lead to substances being taken off store shelves in Mount Airy which have been linked to overdoses locally.
“I guess I’m cautiously optimistic,” Police Chief Dale Watson said Wednesday regarding legislation signed into law by President Barack Obama earlier this month.
Sponsored by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the measure bans bath salts and 29 other dangerous synthetic substances. The law is aimed at stopping “legal” sales of the bath salts along with synthetic marijuana and synthetic hallucinogens.
Watson confirmed Wednesday that substances targeted are now being sold in Mount Airy, which officials say has left a trail of overdoses and destroyed lives. A local emergency room doctor describes the effects as mind-altering and as addictive as methamphetamine and cocaine.
Soon after this month’s federal action, the police chief spoke with the Mount Airy retail community about ensuring compliance with the new mandate. Only one business, Smokin’ Tobacco Pipes and More on West Lebanon Street, has been linked to local sales of the targeted products, which can take the form of glass cleaner and incense.
Those involved were prepared to remove the questionable products from shelves immediately, Watson said, but actually will have a grace period to act in that regard. Although the law was passed this month, sales of such items will not be banned until Oct. 1, so the police chief cautioned that they still will be sold locally until then.
Mayor Deborah Cochran is encouraged by the new law and the effect it will have in Mount Airy, where she said families have been “devastated” by loved ones’ abuse of problem products that were bought right out in the open.
“We are ecstatic with the federal mandate,” Cochran added. “The city of Mount Airy doesn’t want these dangerous substances sold here.”
The mayor indicated that the legislation has long been needed.
“I’ve spoken with family members who are devastated when their loved one is hospitalized, (goes into) rehab or dies after making one bad choice. It is a high price to pay for a false high.”
Cochran believes several factors have influenced the problem — including greed.
“People make decisions without regard for the consequences,” she commented. “Manufacturers’ and sellers’ greed, along with self-destruction, play a role, too. It is heart-wrenching.”
Though the police chief is optimistic about the effects of the new federal mandate, he is concerned about whether it will eradicate the problem altogether.
For example, officials on the local level worked with the N.C. General Assembly last year to ban dangerous substances sold here, specifically bath salts.
Watson pointed out that the resulting state law made certain ingredients contained in the products illegal. “And they (manufacturers) have come back with different derivatives that produce the same kind of effect.”
Such laws tend to have an impact in the short term, but for the long haul have proven to be “very ineffective,” he said.
The recent federal legislation contains a long list of various chemical compounds that are being banned. However, manufacturers have managed to circumvent regulation in the past by devising additional compounds not deemed illegal. Another problem is that they can be masked within the guise of a legitimate product such as glass cleaner.
Watson also is concerned about online sales of the dangerous substances, which authorities have difficulty regulating.
Yet he is basically happy about the new federal mandate.
“I think it’s a step in the right direction, and I guess that’s where I’ll leave it,” the police chief said.
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or email@example.com.