OSWEGO, NY — Brian Colombo, owner of Xtreme Underground in Oswego, made a brief appearance in Oswego City Court Wednesday afternoon. His case was put off until April 16.
In August 2013, he was charged with two misdemeanors and pleaded not guilty that September. The charges stem from the 2012 raid where Oswego Police were looking for misbranded drugs – synthetic drugs.
For one Oswego mother, this is the classic “hurry up and wait” situation.
Teresa Woolson is suing Colombo and Xtreme Underground.
The store sold her son synthetic drugs before his death in 2012, she told Oswego County Today outside court Wednesday.
Victor O. Woolson, 19, drowned in Lake Ontario on Aug. 9, 2012, while swimming with a group of friends.
His friends told her and the police that he’d purchased a synthetic drug, “Avalanche,” from the Xtreme Underground in Oswego, his mother said.
“He used the (synthetic marijuana) to get high just before he drowned,” she said. “The bust was just days after my son died.”
“This is just the second time that Colombo has been in the court and first since his not guilty plea,” she said. “The first time was when he pleaded not guilty. August 2012 was the bust, but he wasn’t arrested for a year later.”
“August 2013 was when they arrested him; one year later. Because that is when they got the test results back,” added Woolson’s daughter, Sarah Gauger.
“My brother (Victor Orlando Woolson) was a great young man. He graduated from Mexico High School with an advanced Regents diploma and was enrolled at Cayuga Community College to pursue a degree in criminal justice,” Gauger said. “My brother’s initials are VOW and I do vow to use my knowledge and my grief to educate others.”
To that end the family has created the non-profit The Victor Orlando Woolson Foundation, Inc., to help fight against the spread of synthetic drugs.
“I want justice to be served,” Woolson said. “Right now we’re working on educating and advocating for the proposed legislation to get passed in New York State. I have worked with (Assemblyman) Will Barclay’s office. We have a few supporters on both sides (of the aisle). I want more education and awareness of these synthetic poisons.”
The bill was introduced by Assemblyman Barclay and co-sponsored by Assemblyman Bob Oaks. In the Senate, Senator Patty Ritchie introduced the bill.
The proposed legislation is currently in the Health Committee of the New York State Senate (S.5401) and Assembly (A.6971). These bills mirror each other and relate to synthetic cannabinoid, synthetic cannabinoid analog and substituted cathinones and prohibiting the production and sale thereof.
The proposed legislation amends §3302 of the Public Health Law, §220.00 of the Penal Code, and §399-ff of the General Business Law, as follows:
· Changes the definition of synthetic cannabinoid as: any drugs that affect a person’s cannabinoid receptors in the brain. (This will help eliminate some of the difficulty authorities are having when one chemical is outlawed and quickly substituted for another).
· Empowers the State Commissioner of Health with the ability to add chemicals to the controlled substance list quickly and easily, working along side law enforcement. This will help stop the chemical swapping by drug dealers to keep these poisons above the law and eliminate the long legislative process now involved in adding chemicals to the banned list.
· Increases penalties for mislabeling. Currently, drug makers are marketing to our youth, with appealing names and packaging such as Scooby Snacks, Spice, Strawberry, etc., passing it off as incense, potpourri, bath salts and other false names. Violators of mislabeling synthetic drugs for a minor to purchase could be charged with a felony.
It is in the committee level of the Senate and Assembly right now, she added.
“We have to push it to get it out of committee and on the agenda so that it can be voted on,” she said. “Hopefully it will be acted on this comming session.”
Sponsorship and support by legislators in both the Senate and Assembly on these bills is urgently needed to move them through committees in Albany, Gauger said.
Woolson has a phone meeting lined up Thursday with the Assembly Health Committee chairman.
The family urges people to call, email and/or write to the members of the State Assembly and Senate with support of the bills and encourage their sponsorship and support.
They can send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Woolson, P.O. Box 82, Lycoming NY 13093 to receive a form letter and list of addresses for mailing letters.
“For more information, visit my website: www.vow-foundation.org, a newly formed non-profit corporation named in honor of my son, Victor Orlando Woolson, who died at age 19 from a fatal reaction to synthetic drugs. The website has form letters, addresses and additional ways you can help,” she said.
Lee Livermore, public education coordinator for Upstate Medical University – Upstate New York Poison Center, noted at a town hall meeting on the drugs that they have gotten the product removed from the shelves of head shops, gas stations and other places where it was sold in colorful packages with cutsie names. However, it has gone underground now (due to the media and police attention), he said.
Synthetic basically means it is manmade, he explained, adding that designer drugs are specifically a category of drugs that are designed to bypass the law.
Manufacturers of the substances were able to legally sell the product by continually changing its formula; as soon as one was banned, they altered it slightly – in essence creating an entirely new product.
And, in some cases, just by adding warnings like “Not For Human Consumption” to the package allowed them to be sold over the counter, he pointed out.
To report synthetic drug abuse, sale, manufacturing, distribution or possession, call 1-888-99-SALTS (1-888-997-2587).
To reach the Upstate New York Poison Center, call 1-800-222-1222.