Barclay, Ritchie Call for Stronger Penalties on Synthetic Drug Use and Sales

Teresa Woolson, president of the VOW Foundation

Teresa Woolson, president of the VOW Foundation

OSWEGO, NY – Amid a resurgence in synthetic drug use and reports from area hospitals on the increased number of patients being treated for adverse reactions stemming from synthetic drug use,  Assemblyman Will Barclay said today (April 22) that New York State needs to enact better laws to keep synthetic drugs off the streets.

He has introduced legislation to increase penalties against synthetic drug sales and use.  Senator Patty Ritchie is the prime sponsor of this legislation in the State Senate.

“I continue to be committed to strengthening our laws to prevent the use and distribution of synthetic drugs. The public needs to understand that synthetics are as dangerous as other controlled substances.  New York needs to increase penalties against sales and use, beyond the state Department of Health regulations passed in 2012,” Barclay said.

Barclay has renewed his push to outlaw synthetic drugs by reintroducing his legislation (A5454a) in the State Assembly.

Outlawing synthetics drugs has been a challenge because New York and the Federal Government outlaw drugs based on their chemical compounds.

Because these drugs are synthetic, manufacturers have been able to slightly change their chemical composition so they are no longer on the state’s controlled substance list and therefore no longer illegal.

In addition, synthetic drugs are often mislabeled and sold as products other than drugs (i.e., bath salts, shoe deodorant and incense.)  However, the seller and the purchaser realize that the intended use of the synthetic drug is to provide a high for the user.

Barclay’s and Ritchie’s legislation addresses mislabeling, chemical swapping and creates penalties for possessing and selling synthetic drugs equivalent to their “street drug” counterpart.

The bill contains two key provisions: (i) broader power is given to the Commissioner of Health to add synthetic drugs and their chemical compounds to the controlled substance list, rather than having the legislature act to add to the controlled substance list; and (ii) stores will be penalized for selling mislabeled products when they are clearly intended to be used as drugs.

“Turn on the news and nearly every day you’ll see stories about new, dangerous synthetic drugs that are putting the lives of those who use them at risk,” Ritchie said.  “This measure will help us take the next step as we work to put an end to the tremendous threat that these substances pose to the health and safety of people in our region, as well as across all of New York State.”

Education Fair to be Held Sunday

Teresa Woolson and her family are fighting to strengthen laws regarding synthetic drug use.

Woolson’s son, Victor, lost his battle with drugs in 2012 and died from injuries related to synthetic drug use.

Woolson has become an advocate and started a foundation called the VOW (Victor Orlando Woolson) Foundation to raise awareness and help educate the public about synthetic drugs.

On Sunday (April 26), from noon -5 p.m., VOW will hold its second Substance Awareness Family Education (SAFE) Fair at the Elks Lodge in Oswego, to raise awareness locally about the dangers.

“Community education is one of the most powerful tools to help with this major health crisis. The Substance Awareness Family Education Fair will do just that by bringing together more than 16 organizations to provide information and education about many forms of synthetic drugs, other drugs, addiction, treatment and prevention,” Woolson said.