Governor Andrew Cuomo today (Oct. 3) announced a new public awareness campaign encouraging New Yorkers to report the illegal sales of synthetic drugs, commonly referred to as synthetic marijuana.
The campaign consists of ads that warn New Yorkers about the dangers associated with use of these man-made drugs and inform those who suffer from addiction that help is available.
“By any name, these synthetic drugs are a danger to public health and a threat to the safety of all New Yorkers,” Governor Cuomo said. “This administration is fully committed to ending both the sale and use of this dangerous substance and this campaign will continue our efforts to educate the public and stop the sale of these harmful substances once in for all.”
Each ad contains the phrase, “Synthetic Marijuana is dangerous and illegal!” and includes a phone number to call to report illegal sales, the State’s HOPEline number, and the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse website.
Ads will run in New York City subways, primarily in Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens where a recent rise in use of these substances has been reported.
Additional ads will be placed on the Staten Island Ferry, in New York State Thruway travel plazas, and on wallscapes in Syracuse, Binghamton, and Plattsburgh.
The New York State Office of Mental Health is also posting these materials on their campuses to help further spread the message regarding the danger of these substances.
New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Commissioner Arlene González-Sánchez said, “In order to protect our communities and help save lives, it’s vital to get the message out about the dangers of synthetics. I encourage New Yorkers to help us get these dangerous synthetics off our streets by reporting any illegal sales that you see in your community. I also encourage those who need help for addiction to contact the NYS HOPEline at 1-877-846-7369 or visit our NYS OASAS website at oasas.ny.gov.”
As part of New York State’s ongoing efforts to combat sale and use of synthetics, Governor Cuomo, directed the State Department of Health to issue regulations prohibiting the possession, manufacture, distribution and sale of synthetic drugs and chemicals in 2012.
The regulations allowed for owner of an establishment and/or an employee selling synthetic marijuana to be criminally charged with possession of an illicit substance, which is punishable with a fine up to $500, or 15 days in jail, or a civil penalty of up to $2,000 per violation.
In October 2015, the Governor launched two public service announcements in an effort to warn New Yorkers about the dangers of synthetic drugs and prescription opioid abuse.
The PSAs aired on television stations and music streaming services across the state.
In July 2016, after reports of increased emergency department visits due to these drugs, Governor Cuomo and the New York State Police took action to close establishments in Syracuse and Binghamton that were selling these illegal substances and also seized the substances from establishments in Rochester charging the store owners with unlawful possession of a synthetic drug and violating the Department of Health regulation banning the possession of these substances. The Governor also asked the Department of Health to add two additional classes of compounds to the banned substances list, in July 2015, which now covers hundreds of different hazardous chemicals.
New York State Department of Health Commissioner, Dr. Howard Zucker said, “Synthetic marijuana poses a grave threat to public health and safety and this new awareness campaign will help educate New Yorkers on the dangers of these drugs. Together with our new, tougher regulations and coordinated statewide enforcement actions, these educational materials are an important resource in Governor Cuomo’s plan to fight the threat of synthetic marijuana.”
New York State Police Superintendent George P. Beach II said, “While State Police have strengthened enforcement against the distribution of synthetic cannabinoids, public education is also critically important in helping communities understand the dangers these drugs pose. This campaign is part of a broader partnership involving a number of state agencies to crack down on the spread of synthetic drugs and keep New Yorkers safe.”
These drugs consist of man-made, mind-altering chemicals that are either sprayed on dried, shredded plant material so they can be smoked (herbal incense) or sold as liquids to be vaporized and inhaled in e-cigarettes and other devices (liquid incense).
They are marketed as “legal” substances in colorful packaging, often as potpourri.
Brand names for substances include Spice, K2, Scooby Snax, Green Giant, Smacked, Wicked X, iBlow, Geeked Up, Ninja, Caution, Red Giant and Keisha Kole.
They can be life-threatening and can cause intense hallucinations and psychotic episodes.
Individuals may have suicidal thoughts and can hurt, maim or even kill themselves or others while under the influence of these man-made substances.
Effects of use can range from irregularities in blood pressure, agitation, irritability, nausea/vomiting, confusion, drowsiness, headache, electrolyte abnormalities, seizures, anxiety, paranoia, aggressive behavior, loss of consciousness, addiction, kidney failure, hypertension and even death.
If you think someone has used a synthetic cannabinoid, call the New York State Regional Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.
In a medical emergency, call 9-1-1.
If you have information about the illegal distribution of these synthetic drugs or bath salts, call the NYS Governor’s Synthetic Hotline at 1-888-997-2587.
Reports can be made anonymously.
New Yorkers struggling with an addiction, or whose loved ones are struggling, can find help and hope by calling the State’s toll-free, 24-hour, 7-day-a-week HOPEline at 1-877-8-HOPENY (1-877-846-7369) or by texting HOPENY (Short Code 467369).