Senate Passes Bill to Ban Synthetic Marijuana and Bath Salts

June 11, 2013

The New York State Senate today passed legislation to address the threat posed to the public by “legal” but dangerous drugs. The bill (S1686), sponsored by Senator John Flanagan (R-C-I, East Northport) criminalizes the sale and possession of synthetic marijuana and “bath salts.”

“It is important to get these ‘legal drugs’ off our streets and out of the reach of young people,” Senator Flanagan said. “While the state has taken steps to remove them from our store shelves, we need to take additional action to drive them completely out of our communities. These substances are a proven danger that can serve as gateways to further and more devastating drug use and it is imperative that we act sooner rather than later.”

Synthetic marijuana or “fake pot” are herbs sprayed with chemicals called “synthetic cannabinoids.”   These products -- including Spice, K2, Cloud 9 and Black 9 -- have dangerous side effects, including rapid heart rate, tremors, loss of consciousness and hallucinations.  “Bath salts,” or “substituted cathinones,” are chemically related to methamphetamines or ecstasy and cause harmful physical and psychological reactions.

A law banning the sale of bath salts was enacted in 2011, and the New York State Department of Health has banned the sale and distribution of synthetic marijuana through an Order for Summary Action. However, possession of these substances -- which may be purchased outside the state or via the Internet -- continues to be legal.  

The bill passed today criminalizes the possession of these products.  Penalties for the sale and possession of synthetic marijuana and bath salts would be similar to those of marijuana and methamphetamines, respectively.  For instance, sale of these substances to a minor, or on or near school grounds, would constitute a class B felony punishable by up to 25 years imprisonment.

In addition to outlawing the sale and possession of synthetic marijuana and bath salts, this legislation would establish a Statewide Synthetic Cannabinoid and Substituted Cathinone Surrender Program.  For 90 days following the effective date of the law, the program would allow individuals to voluntarily turn over any products containing synthetic cannabinoids and substituted cathinones at designated locations throughout the state.

A state database would also be created and available on the New York State Department of Health’s website to provide retailers, law enforcement, and the general public with a listing of trade names, physical descriptions, brand names and images of the various products known to be either synthetic marijuana or bath salts.

The bill has been sent to the Assembly.