Assemblyman Will Barclay (R,C,I—Pulaski) introduced legislation that would prohibit the sale and distribution of chemical compounds that mimic the effects of marijuana. The legislation would add “synthetic cannabinoids” to the controlled substance list. The legislation would also enable law enforcement to penalize users similar to how drug users are penalized.
Public health officials, local law enforcement and community officials are concerned about the recent surge in the use of such substances. Officials in Oswego are particularly concerned because a product known as Happy Shaman is sold legally in the city as incense, but is allegedly being smoked. Because there is no law against it, retailers are able to sell it. News reports and the medical community report that users of these products can have strong psychotic episodes, including extreme paranoia, hallucinations, hypertension and suicidal thoughts.
“This law would give our law enforcement the tools they need to get these drugs out of the retail stores and off the streets,” said Barclay. “New York needs to address this and fix our law so that the sale and use of these products are punishable by law.”
States face challenges in banning these substances because they can be altered so easily and still produce similar effects. Barclay’s bill would define synthetic cannabinoid and categorize it as a controlled substance. By making it a controlled substance, retail outlets would not be allowed to sell these products. This bill would (a.) ban sale and distribution of products that create the same effect on a person’s “cannabinoid receptor” (chemicals that create the same effect as marijuana) and (b.) exclude chemical compounds approved by the Food and Drug Administration. This last element would ensure that compounds used in prescription medicine would not be impacted.
Colorado passed similar legislation which banned chemical compounds that produce the same effect on a person’s cannabinoid receptors as marijuana. The Governor of Colorado signed that legislation into law on June 2, 2011.