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Westchester Passes Law Banning Synthetic Drugs

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The synthetic marijuana drug Spice is among those banned under a new law passed in Westchester County. Credits: Photo courtesy of Lance Corporal Damany S. Coleman
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(NORTH SALEM, N.Y.)--Westchester County has approved a new law that bans the sale and possession of synthetic drugs in the county. The measure, passed by the Westchester County Board of Legislators on May 8, was signed into law by Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino on May 18. “Synthetic drugs are cheap, potent, available and even marketed as a safe alternative to drugs,” said Astorino. “We know these chemically concocted drugs pose a serious threat to our communities and that we must face this challenge head-on.” The law was sponsored by Legislators John Testa (R- Cortlandt, Peekskill, Yorktown) and David Tubiolo (R- Yonkers, Mount Vernon.) It passed by a unanimous 17-0 vote. The local law amends the county’s consumer protecton code to include a new category entitled “Synthetic Cannabinoids” which restricts the sale and possession of synthetic drugs, including synthetic marijuana products known on the street as K2 or Spice. Synthetic drugs are particularly dangerous because they are often marketed over-the-counter to teenagers and people living in poorer communities as tobacco, herbs, incense, spice and potpourri products. Yet it contains hallucinogenic chemicals, substances and agents that are made in laboratories to mimic the active ingredients of marijuana, cocaine, heroin and other drugs. Under the new law, those convicted of selling or possessing synthetic drugs would face a $500 fine for the first offense and $2,000 for the second. The law would be enforced through both local police and the county’s Department of Health. Both county and municipal law enforcement representatives voiced support for the law saying overdoses with synthetic pot were on the rise. They noted frequent interactions with individuals under the influence of synthetic marijuana who were “zombie-like,” irrational, violent or suicidal. Tubiolo, who chairs the Seniors and Constituencies Committee, which has oversight of the county’s Youth Bureau, commended the passage of the measure. “I am very pleased to be joined by my colleagues in passing this important piece of legislation,” Tubiolo said. “Synthetic marijuana is a serious and dangerous problem from both a public health and law enforcement perspective. We spent a lot of time in researching and writing this law to be sure that it would be an effective tool for law enforcement. I am hopeful that our work can serve as a template for local, regional and state governments to use in battling this critical problem.” Testa, co-sponsor of the measure, agreed. “I spent my professional career as a public high school teacher,” Testa said. “Kids tend to think they are invincible and some engage in risky behavior like experimenting with drugs. With synthetic marijuana, an individual can find themselves in a crisis situation the very first time they use these substances, even if they’ve used a very small amount.”

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