© 2024 WRVO Public Media
NPR News for Central New York
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Stricter ban and penalties proposed on synthetic drugs

New York lawmakers have introduced new legislation to expand the ban on synthetic drugs and increase penalties in the state by addressing the mislabeling and chemical swapping of the drugs.

Synthetic drugs, often known as "bath salts" and sold under various other names, in New York have been banned since August last year following multiple cases of violent overdoses.

But the sale and distribution of the drugs has increased, health officials say, forcing lawmakers to push for tougher penalties and fines to prevent further overdoses.

Sara Gauger tells the story of how her brother died while high on synthetic drugs.
Credit Ryan Delaney / WRVO
Sara Gauger tells the story of how her brother died while high on synthetic drugs.

Assemblyman Will Barclay, a Republican representing the Oswego area, says that the biggest challenge in keeping up with the ban of synthetic drugs has been that these products are typically repackaged and sold using different names such as Spice, K2 and Shoe Powder.

“A lot of the people that are selling these drugs sell them saying that they’re the legal equivalent of what’s on the street, or the street drugs, and they’re also selling them as being ‘safe’ drugs," Barclay said at a press conference Tuesday. "The problem with that is that it’s mislabeling so we’re giving the State Attorney General more weapons to be able to go after this mislabelization.”

The bill will allow the health department to add the drugs’ chemicals to the list of banned substances, while penalizing stores for selling mislabeled products clearly intended to be used as drugs so that they are equivalent to possession or sale of marijuana or other controlled substances.

Teresa Woolson lost her son last year after he drowned while high on the drugs. She says the poisonous substances that resulted in his death has inspired her to push for legislation that she hopes will prevent any family from going through the same ordeal.

“These synthetics are not drugs like cocaine and heroin, they’re much more deadly," she says.

Health officials say they're having trouble keeping up with the constantly changing drug. Barclay says he will try and get the bill through the Legislature before the session ends in late June. It's also sponsored by State Sen. Patty Richie.