Issues of legal marijuana being laced with deadly fentanyl, problems obtaining school bus driver due to applicants being unable to pass drug tests due to marijuana use, community residents being a greater problem than college students in use of drugs, drivers under the influence of marijuana, lack of money to pursue street level drug dealers, five or six arrests being necessary to jail drug dealers, and more were dumped on the table today in Allegany County.
Congressman Nick Langworthy received the comments during a HALT Fentanyl Roundtable of law enforcement officers, along with a few county legislators, at the Allegany County Sheriff’s Department in Belmont.
The session, which added to two others during the day in Steuben and Cattaraugus counties, was to receive input in regard to illegal drug issues being experienced in New York’s Western Southern Tier, particularly as it relates to stopping trafficking of fentanyl, a deadly opioid which is being mixed with other drugs.
Langworthy was promoting the Halt All Lethal Trafficking (HALT) of Fentanyl Act which has been approved by the House of Representatives and is awaiting action by the Senate before it can go to President Biden, who has indicated he will sign it.
The law would permanently schedule all fentanyl-related substances, not already included, into the Controlled Substances Act, and expedite research into such drugs.
Fentanyl present in most Allegany County drugs
Most local police department officials present said that fentanyl now is mixed in with nearly all illegal drugs which are being seen in Allegany County and, as a higher level is being used, it is taking three, four or five doses of Narcan, a naloxone nasal spray which was designed to rapidly reverse an opioid overdose,” to attempt to overcome a death.
Wellsville Police Chief Timothy O’Grady said his department is experiencing drug overdose calls several times a week.
Police representatives said that drug users and others are carrying the spray and, often, if an officer doesn’t have enough of the over the counter item, users at the scene and others may supply it.
They said this isn’t the answer, however, because deaths are occurring due to those overdosing not being discovered soon enough and the counter-acting spray sometimes isn’t able to be administered fast enough.
Alfred Police Chief Paul Griffith took exception to some bulletin boards he has seen in the county which, he feels, misleads people into believing that if Narcan is readily available, people can do drugs and won’t die.
Bail reform a problem
O’Grady also lamented about current bail reform laws, saying that having to release people who have been arrested for possession has resulted in less ability to get users into drug treatment. He also said the lack of incarceration in most situations has resulted in a lesser means to recruit informants who previously would have been subject to jail.
Undersheriff Walter Mackney, who has extended experience in drug enforcement, said that Allegany County is primarily encountering street-level drug dealers, with the bigger sellers being in larger cities such as Rochester and Buffalo, from which the drugs are being obtained.
The problem, he said, is that to address the issue effectively the entire drug enforcement process needs to be re-started with local collaborative task forces.
However, federal money which had come through the state until four or five years ago no longer is available to pay for such initiatives, Mackney said, with communities being left with no financial resources to take such actions and, with a shortage of individuals entering law enforcement, not having the manpower.
O’Grady also bemoaned that with public cries to raise the level of professionalism within police departments, he said it actually has resulted in pools of lesser qualified individuals, due to a shortage of personnel having led to lowering of standards for employment.
This ends up with with departments “taking people we wouldn’t take five years ago,” he said.
Driving under influence is up
Griffith also noted the rise in driving under the influence of drugs, saying that drivers are being stopped while smoking marijuana, claiming that possession is legal, while the law makes it illegal to drive while under influence of the drug.
Langworthy said his listening tour was designed to hear about local issues on “this very important subject” and share information, saying the country is “dealing with the greatest drug crisis which we have ever faced.”
He advocated for securing the country’s borders from illegal immigration, saying that cheap drugs from China are coming into the United States through cartels, making every county in the country a border community.
Although saying he supports legal immigration, Langworthy said Upstate New York can’t contend with a massive influx of asylum seekers from New York City, commending Allegany and other counties for declaring States of Emergency.
Allegany’s 30-day declaration ended on June 18 due to no current indication of such an influx.