Assemblyman Pete Lopez Calls For Criminalization Of Synthetic Marijuana

April 19, 2012
Assemblyman Pete Lopez (R,C,I – Schoharie) joined Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, members of the State Legislature, and Windham Police Officer and Cairo DARE Officer Thomas Plank and Greene County Sheriff Gregory Seeley at a press conference to discuss the criminalization of synthetic marijuana. Also joining the officials was Athens, New York resident Deirdre Canaday, the mother of the young man who recently died as the result of smoking the synthetic drug.

Despite the governor’s recent ban on synthetic cannabinoid (synthetic marijuana), the coalition is seeking to further deter the sale and possession of the deadly product with legislation that imposes penalties, such as Assembly Bill 7231. Based on their conversation with Ms. Canaday and Greene County law enforcement, Assemblyman Lopez and Assemblyman Ortiz, will be seeking to criminalize the sale and possession of synthetic cannabinoid in a manner similar to other illegal substances such as ecstasy or cocaine.

Assemblyman Lopez commented, “While the governor’s ban is certainly a step in the right direction, there is no penalty to purchase or possess this deadly substance. There is no deterrent that signifies the risk persons who sell or use synthetic cannabinoid take – the risk of losing their life. I appreciate the legislative efforts of my colleagues to help highlight this loophole in the existing ban, and will continue working with them to bring some comfort to mothers like Deirdre Canaday – and help protect all New Yorkers from this lethal drug.”

At just 26 years of age, Aaron Stinson was pronounced dead on September 26, 2011. According to the coroner’s report, the cause of Mr. Stinson’s death was “acute intoxication due to the combined effects of ethanol and relaxinol (incense).” The blood alcohol content (BAC) at the time of autopsy was 0.01, well below the legal intoxication limit BAC of 0.80. However, extensive drug tests proved consistent with the chemical cannabinoids found in synthetic marijuana incense products. A witness to Mr. Stinson’s death testified that Mr. Stinson had smoked “Mr. Nice Guy” relaxinol incense the night of his death, at approximately 1 a.m. By 10 a.m. that morning, Mr. Stinson was in full respiratory and cardiac arrest and could not be revived by emergency responders. His official time of death was 10:55 a.m.

Deirdre Canaday said, “No parent should have to see their son or daughter pulled out of a cooler and lying on a steel tray in a morgue in the prime of their lives. There have been recorded deaths from synthetic marijuana products in NY State alone, dating back to March of 2010, fully 18 months before these products took my son’s life. My only question is not whether a bill should be passed banning and criminalizing synthetic marijuana products, but why haven’t our elected lawmakers in the State and Federal governments passed legislation to protect our young people long before now? Time is of the essence: The deceptive and alluring packaging on these products is akin to placing a candy wrapper over a bar of rat poison. It’s too late to save my son, but it’s not too late to save the sons and daughters across our state and nation.”

“I stand with Deidre, the Sheriff, and Assemblyman Lopez and his colleagues to move this ban into a law that can be enforced to hopefully avert another tragedy like this,” said Windham Police Officer and Cairo DARE Officer Tom Plank. “It is very scary to think that kids are using these products just because they are legal to get without any clue of what they will do to them. I thank Assemblyman Ortiz, Assemblyman Lopez, and Senator Flanagan for bringing this situation to the forefront.”

“On behalf of the Greene County Sheriffs office, I join today with great concern in supporting this legislation to stiffen the penalties for use of synthetic marijuana. I fully support Assemblyman Lopez, Assemblyman Ortiz, and Senator Flanagan in efforts to make this a criminal matter,” said Greene County Sheriff Greg Seeley. “Law enforcement agencies in Greene County have seen numerous cases on this in the last several months. We have to protect our youth; they are our future. Obviously we cannot have another occurrence like Aaron’s tragic death. Providing more education to parents and families in Greene County about the dangers of these substances is another important step, and so is giving law enforcement the tools they need to close down shops selling these substances as we enforce the use of these drugs. With my condolences to Ms. Canaday, we never want to see that happen again locally, or anywhere else in the State of New York.”