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Politics and Government

New bill would speed up synthetic drug bans and distributor prosecutions

Tom Magnarelli
Rep. John Katko (left) with Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick (right).

Manufacturers of synthetic marijuana have been able to skirt around U.S. laws by slightly altering the chemical makeup of their product. While synthetic drugs are still showing up legally on retail store shelves, Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus) introduced legislation this week that would make it easier to prosecute the distributors.

Earlier this year, state health officials broadened its list of banned substances to try to slow the growth of synthetic drug use in the state. Katko said the current process of banning a drug on the federal level can take years. The chemical composition of the drug has to be determined. Then there is a DEA administrative process and then it has to go through Congress.

“So every couple of years maybe you’ll get a bill introduced in Congress that lists out the new chemical compositions,” Katko said. “We don’t have to do that anymore. Now it could be a much quicker process. A lot of these stores are selling this stuff over-the-counter because its technically not illegal and we have to do something about that and that’s what this bill does.”

Katko said his bill could speed up that process to only take weeks. It sets up a new panel of drug and health experts that will put drug combinations onto a federal registry and after 30 days, they are banned by law.

“Once it gets listed you can go into every place that’s carrying this stuff and you can clear the shelves. They can be arrested for selling a controlled substance," Katko said. “It’s definitely going to make it more difficult for them to do business and that’s the whole idea of this thing is to make it more difficult and make the availability less prevalent."

Katko, a Republican, said there is bipartisan support for the bill which will make it easier to get passed.