WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a bipartisan vote this morning (June 15), the U.S. House of Representatives passed historic legislation introduced by U.S. Rep. John Katko (NY-24) to address the heroin and synthetic drug epidemic plaguing Central New York and communities nationwide.
The bipartisan bill, the Stop the Importation of Synthetic Drug the Stop the Importation and Trafficking of Synthetic Analogues (SITSA) Act of 2017 was authored and introduced by Katko last year in response to a surge in synthetic drug overdoses in Central New York.
Toxic, synthetic drugs are designed to mimic street drugs like marijuana, LSD, cocaine, ecstasy and other hard drugs.
They can be more potent than the real thing and often times are more deadly.
Unfortunately, when law enforcement encounters and begins to combat a specific synthetic drug compound, manufacturers of these substances are able to slightly alter the chemical structure of the drug.
This puts law enforcement at a serious disadvantage, leaving them constantly one step behind.
Katko’s legislation will help to stop the unlawful importation and distribution of synthetic drugs by giving law enforcement the effective tools they need to crack down on these substances.
The bill modernizes the Controlled Substances Act and provides a mechanism by which synthetic analogues can be temporarily or permanently added to the Schedule A by the Attorney General.
This will allow scientific and research communities to develop information on these newly-invented substances.
The bill was largely inspired by the advocacy of Oswego mother, Teresa Woolson, who lost her son, Victor, in 2012 when he drowned after using synthetic drugs that he purchased legally in a head shop in Oswego.
Since Victor’s death, Teresa has been a tremendous local and national advocate in the fight to outlaw synthetic drugs.
Following passage today, Teresa said, “I’m very excited about the passage of the SITSA Act. Since the death of my son, Victor, almost 6 years ago, I have been educating and advocating about Synthetic Drugs through the non-profit I formed and named in his honor, the Victor Orlando Woolson Foundation, Inc. (VOW Foundation). Victor died from a synthetic drug identified as XLR-11 and it took several years for this deadly drug to be placed on the controlled substance list. The SITSA Act has several components that will help save lives, including a measure that will allow the temporary scheduling of an identified deadly drug.”
“I continue to applaud Congressman John Katko for his diligent efforts on this very important subject. This is what I have been fighting for many years for and couldn’t be more pleased with this outcome,” she added. “Congressman Katko is not only a great representative in Washington, but his knowledge, expertise and compassion are truly appreciated.”
Speaking on the floor of the House this morning in support of the bill, Katko said, “Synthetic drug abuse has crippled my community and the communities of many other Members in this chamber. Last year, Syracuse area hospitals saw a record number of overdoses due to synthetic drug abuse. In May of last year, over 15 individuals had overdosed on synthetic drugs and were taken to the ER in the span of 24 hours. Unfortunately, stories like this have become the new normal.”
He continued, “The potency and danger of synthetic drugs do not only threaten users, we are now seeing local law enforcement and first responders put in harm’s way simply by coming in contact with these often lethal substances. Numerous cases across the country have resulted in emergency personnel becoming gravely ill and even dying while responding synthetic overdoses. The threats synthetic drugs pose to our communities and law enforcement must be stopped. H.R. 2851 takes a big step towards eradicating these harmful substances and protecting our communities. The bipartisan SITSA Act will give local, state, and federal law enforcement the necessary tools to target synthetic substances and the criminals who traffic them.”
Specifically the SITSA Act:
Modernizes the Controlled Substances Act by adding Schedule A to the existing 5 schedules. It provides a mechanism by which synthetic analogues can be temporarily or permanently added to the Schedule A by the Attorney General. This will allow scientific and research communities to develop information on these newly-invented substances.
Specifically omits federal simple possession of a synthetic drug from the reach of the bill.
Adds to current law an offense for false labeling of controlled substance analogues.