Press-Republican

May 1, 2012

State Senate passes bill making sale, possession prohibited

JOE LoTEMPLIO
Staff

PLATTSBURGH — The State Senate passed a bill Monday that would make it illegal to sell or possess fake pot and hallucinogenic chemicals known as "bath salts."

"I've heard from parents, educators, substance-abuse counselors and all of my district attorneys urging the State Legislature to make the sale and possession of these drugs illegal," said Sen. Betty Little (R-Queensbury), who co-sponsored the law.

"But the most compelling pleas have come from teenagers who have used or seen someone use these drugs. The effects are so alarming that they've asked me to do something. That says a lot about just how deceptively dangerous these drugs are and why it is important we act today and that the Assembly joins us in this effort."

The Senate approved the measure by a 54-2 vote Monday.

Synthetic marijuana or "fake pot" is herbs sprayed with chemicals called "synthetic cannabinoids," according to a news release from Little.

These products, known by names like Spice, K2, Cloud 9 and Black 9, have been known to have dangerous side effects, including rapid heart rate, tremors, loss of consciousness and hallucinations.

"Bath salts," or "substituted cathinones," are chemically related to methamphetamines and Ecstasy and also cause harmful physical and psychological impacts.

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In addition to potential health risks to those who use the chemicals, the use of synthetic marijuana and "bath salts" has also been implicated in serious criminal activity, Little's release said.

Just last week, Richard A. "Psycho" Velazquez was sentenced to 10 years in state prison and five years on parole after pleading guilty to felony counts of assault and strangulation in an attack on a woman and her infant child in Glens Falls.

Velazquez slammed the victim's face into a mirror, choked her and tackled her down a flight of stairs as she held her 7-week-old child. He said the synthetic marijuana product he and the victim had been smoking directly contributed to his actions.

Under the provisions of the bill, penalties for the sale and possession of synthetic marijuana and bath salts would be similar to those for marijuana and methamphetamines.

Most offenses would be subject to a misdemeanor charge or a violation.

But the sale of these substances to a minor on or near school grounds would constitute a felony punishable by up to 25 years in prison.

Assemblywoman Janet Duprey (R-Peru) said she was not sure when the bill would come up for a vote in the Assembly but said she would support it when it does.

"It's too dangerous and too accessible for our kids," she said of synthetic pot.

"I am confident we will get there (to a vote), and I will support it."

Email Joe LoTemplio at: jlotemplio@pressrepublican.com