The state Senate today (April 30) passed a bill cosponsored by Senator Patty Ritchie that bans the possession of synthetic marijuana.
The measure, S.6694, also tightens state laws that prohibit the sale and use of hallucinogenic chemicals known as “bath salts.” Senator Ritchie spoke about the bill at a Capitol press conference Monday.
Senator Ritchie said the bill was prompted by concerns raised by police, substance abuse counselors – even the US Army – that the growing use of the artificial street drugs was becoming a major problem in workplaces and schools.
A law signed by Governor Cuomo last year already banned the sale of “bath salts,” but unscrupulous dealers are reengineering the formulas used to make the products to evade the law.
And last month, the state Health Department banned the sale of synthetic marijuana.
The Army also took action, declaring the substance “off –limits” to all active, reserve and National Guard personnel.
Despite these measures, possession of these substances is still legal.
“I applaud Governor Cuomo and Health Commissioner Shah for the actions they have already taken to protect the public from these substances. Today’s passage of this bill is a step in the right direction when it comes to protecting the men and women of the Armed Forces, and keeping these dangerous products out of reach of impressionable young people,” said Senator Ritchie.
Synthetic marijuana, sold under brand names like Spice, K2, Cloud 9 and Black 9, has dangerous side effects including hallucinations, rapid heart rate, tremors and loss of consciousness.
Police report an increase in burglaries by users intent on gaining access to the products.
Bath salts are chemically related to methamphetamines and ecstasy.
They also have harmful physical and psychological impact on users.
Under the bill passed by the Senate, penalties for the sale and possession of synthetic marijuana and bath salts would be similar to penalties for marijuana and methamphetamines, respectively.
The sale of these substances to a minor, on or near school grounds would constitute a class B felony, punishable by up to 25 years in prison.
The measure also would establish a surrender program, where individuals could voluntarily turn over any of these products at locations throughout the state.
The bill, which now goes to the Assembly, would also create a database on the New York State Department of Health’s website, providing retailers, law enforcement officials and the general public with a listing of trade names, images and descriptions of synthetic marijuana and bath salts.
Video of Senator Ritchie’s press conference remarks is available at her website, www.ritchie.nysenate.gov