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Assemblyman: Legislation would make sale, use of synthetic drugs illegal

You may have heard the term “synthetic marijuana” or synthetic drugs. The drugs come in small packages and have names like “Spice” or “Happy Shaman,” they are often labeled as incense and are allegedly smoked. People can purchase them in stores that sell smoking accessories and even at convenience stores. These synthetic drugs produce the same effects as marijuana and cocaine, but they can be even more dangerous.

Users who smoke these products often exhibit extreme paranoia, hallucinations, hypertension (high blood pressure) and suicidal thoughts. They are dangerous and unsafe. They are especially unsafe if users operate a vehicle or try to perform other responsibilities under the influence. Despite all of these concerns, law enforcement can’t do anything to penalize anyone who sells or uses because currently, these drugs are legal.

I have introduced legislation that, if passed, would ban the sale and distribution of “chemical compounds that mimic the effects of marijuana.” In crafting this legislation, I was careful not to propose to ban specific chemical compounds. Last year the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency banned the manufacture, distribution and dispensing of several compounds. However, underground chemists were able to alter the drugs and substitute one chemical compound with another, which made the ban irrelevant. Rather, I took a route similar to what Colorado chose and this legislation proposes to ban drugs that produce the same effects as marijuana or cocaine. Hopefully, this will give it staying power, if this passes in the State Legislature and becomes law.

Since this became an issue last year, a number of people have been concerned and want to protect our youth from the dangers. Emergency workers report that people are putting their lives at risk and emergency room visits were up last year due to these drugs. Parents too have contacted my office, asking for help because they have found out that their kids are using these products. The Oswego County Legislature signed a resolution in the spring, asking the state to outlaw these drugs. I am hopeful we can pass this measure in the Assembly, to help make our communities safer and keep these products away from our kids.

Assemblyman Will Barclay represents residents of Assembly District 124, which includes Lysander. He can be reached by mail at 200 North Second St., Fulton, NY 13069, by e-mail at barclaw@assembly.state.ny.us or by phone (598-5185).

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