Two local leaders were among those who addressed state legislators Monday as the state Senate passed a bill that would make it illegal to possess or sell synthetic marijuana.
A companion bill has been introduced in the state Assembly and is awaiting a possible vote later this spring.
James Dexter, superintendent of Washington-Saratoga-Warren-Hamilton-Essex BOCES, and Warren County District Attorney Kate Hogan were among those who spoke out during a news conference in Albany that preceded the Senate vote.
Dexter told of students being taken to the hospital and of police being called to schools because of use of synthetic marijuana products.
“Students who use fake weed can’t learn. They’re agitated, aggressive, paranoid, and unmanageable,” Dexter said in a news release. “We are finding that these behaviors accelerate the more students use the drug, and their bodies are not returning to normal.”
The products, with names like Posh, Spice and K2, consist of green plant material sprayed with chemicals designed to give users a high when they ingest it, typically by smoking. But the chemicals also cause mental and physical problems among many users, and have been identified as a contributing factor in a number of violent crimes in the region.
Hogan has spoken frequently in recent weeks about those crimes as state and Warren County officials cracked down, and told Monday of the Glens Falls case in which a teen stabbed his mother with a knife repeatedly, seriously injuring her.
The Senate bill that was passed Monday was co-sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth Little, R-Queensbury.
It was introduced in mid-March, shortly before the state Department of Health enacted an emergency ban on the sale of synthetic marijuana. While stores in New York can no longer sell the products, nothing bars their possession.
The proposed law would mimic marijuana laws, making it a noncriminal violation to possess synthetic marijuana but raising the penalties for sale and making it a felony to sell it to a minor.
The law would also establish a statewide “Synthetic Cannabinoid and Substituted Cathinone Surrender Program.” For 90 days following the effective date of the law, the program would allow people to turn over any products containing “synthetic cannabinoids” and other similar chemicals at locations throughout the state.
The Assembly bill was introduced March 19, but no vote has been scheduled.
“We’re optimistic because it has a sponsor in the Assembly majority,” said Dan MacEntee, a spokesman for Little.
Warren County supervisors are mulling a proposal that would ban synthetic marijuana in the county, and a vote on that law is expected May 18.