Assemblyman Zebrowski’s Legislation to Ban Synthetic Marijuana Passes Assembly

May 23, 2012

Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski (D-New City) announced the Assembly passed a bill he authored that would add synthetic cannabinoids, the primary components of synthetic marijuana, to the list of controlled substances (A.9855-A).

“I’ve been fighting against this dangerous drug for over two years because these substances jeopardize the safety of our children,” Assemblyman Zebrowski said. “The manufacturers and vendors of synthetic marijuana have abused a loophole in our drug laws for too long. It is well past time they are regulated like other drugs.”

Synthetic marijuana, often sold as “herbal incense,” contains man-made cannabinoid compounds that mimic THC, the main compound found in marijuana. The effects of the engineered chemicals are enhanced and can cause psychotic episodes, seizures, rapid heartbeats, tremors, agitation, nausea, vomiting, withdrawal and dependence, among several other adverse health effects.i Labeling for non-human consumption has allowed synthetic marijuana to avoid government regulation in the past. This legislation, if signed into law, would close the loophole, Assemblyman Zebrowski said.

In late March, the New York State Department of Health sent out an order calling for all sales and distribution of synthetic marijuana to “cease immediately.” However, violators of the order have only been subject to civil action. Assemblyman Zebrowski’s legislation would extend criminal penalties to synthetic marijuana and make the possession of this drug a Class A misdemeanor and sale a Class D felony.

“These laboratory-created drugs are every bit as dangerous and addictive as other controlled substances,” Assemblyman Zebrowski said. “One small chemical change should not undermine our criminal laws. This legislation means penalties for the sale, distribution and possession of synthetic marijuana match the threat it poses to our community.”

In 2010, three young adults in Rockland County were taken to the hospital for severe reactions to synthetic marijuana, according to Assemblyman Zebrowski. A recent study found that one out of nine high school students have used synthetic marijuana within the past year and allegedly, the marijuana substitute has been the cause of several recent teen deaths, including a 17-year-old girl in Washington State, a 19-year-old boy in Illinois and an 18-year-old in Iowa.ii

“Our community, and especially our young adults, need protections from this dangerous drug,” Assemblyman Zebrowski said. “We have laws that guard us against mind-altering substances because the illicit drugs pose serious safety risks to society as a whole. Synthetic marijuana is no different and this legislation finally provides the protections we need.”