New Law Reveals Complexity Of Synthetic Drug War; More Teeth Needed

News of synthetic drugs is making headlines again. The governor recently signed legislation which expands the chemical ban of 2012. This new ban targets drugs used to make bath salts and psychedelic drugs and adds them to the Schedule 1 controlled substance list. The legislation was signed into law after casualties were reported in New York City when concertgoers succumbed to the effects of Molly, another synthetic drug. The law also increases the criminal penalties on sale and possession, and makes it illegal to sell these drugs on school grounds.

This is a good step in what’s being dubbed as the evolving war on synthetics, but more needs to be done if we are to give authorities the tools they need to punish the crimes at hand. I sponsor legislation that would help strengthen these laws. My legislation attacks this problem with a multi-faceted approach as set forth below:

  • Empower the State Commissioner of Health to be able to add chemicals to the controlled substance list easily. This will enable the Commissioner to work hand-in-hand with law enforcement. Pinpointing specific chemicals has proven to be difficult, as underground chemists change the drug make-up typically after one chemical is banned. Having the means to change the list quickly will allow less time for a new drug to be marketed.
  • Change the definition of synthetic cannabinoid as one that affects a person’s “cannabinoid receptors.” This, too, will help eliminate some of the difficulty authorities are having when one chemical is outlawed and quickly substituted for another.
  • Increase penalties for mislabeling. Currently, many drug makers are marketing to our youth with names such as Scooby Snacks, Spice, or Ivory Wave. The packages usually come with a disclaimer on the back that says “not for ingesting” or something to this effect. Clearly, its makers have different intentions. My legislation would allow a complaint to be filed with the Attorney General’s office. Based on evidence, this would allow the Attorney General to make an application to the court requesting a special procedural order for the store to stop selling the product. If it is determined the store violated the law of mislabeling synthetic drugs for a minor to purchase, those individuals could be charged with a felony.

When looking at reports in the media, one can see how difficult synthetic drug problems can be for police and authorities. Earlier this month, Utica Police issued warnings for a drug called Crazy Clown after eight people were sent to the hospital in Brunswick, Georgia. In an attempt to be proactive, Utica Police asked for the public’s help in identifying retailers selling this drug. The affects of Crazy Clown included nausea, vomiting, dry mouth, weakness, cardiac problems and an inability to move. While police know these drugs are dangerous, at the time the public statement was issued, it was reported that police were not sure if the chemicals contained in Crazy Clown were actually illegal. Officials must run lab tests to determine the compounds used, and sometimes, this can take too long to keep the public safe. Police did know, however, that these drugs were dangerous and acted to warn the public. It was wise to take action.

Unfortunately, a boy from Oswego County died under the influence of synthetic drugs last year. Teresa Woolson, the boy’s mother, has been a proponent of getting the drugs away from youth since her son became addicted. He sought treatment, but, unfortunately, relapsed. He drowned in Lake Ontario while under the influence of synthetics. Last week, the news media reported that Woolson will file a lawsuit against the retailers who sold her son these drugs. While no amount of money can replace her loss, perhaps the outcome of her lawsuit will help others to face criminal and civil penalties.

I am hopeful we can prevent others from facing drug problems and other families from facing tragedies with better laws. I have received a lot of encouragement and support at the local level to change the state laws. Now is the time to make other lawmakers across the state aware of this drug problem facing our public, and pass laws that authorities can use to help keep the public safe. I plan to gain more legislative sponsors before session meets again in January. Criminals will always find ways around laws; however, we must try to make the new-rising synthetic drug trade more difficult.

If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office. My office can be reached by mail at 200 North Second Street, Fulton, New York 13069, by e-mail at or by calling (315) 598-5185. You also may find me, Assemblyman Barclay, on Facebook.