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The state health commissioner issued an emergency order Thursday immediately banning the sale of "synthetic marijuana" products in New York.

The Department of Health announced the ban Thursday morning at the request of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and the state Department of Health has begun enforcing the order.

It stops short of criminalizing the widely criticized products, which have been blamed for health problems, violent crimes and thefts locally as well as nationally, and does not bar possession of them by users.

"The commissioner's order calls for sales and distribution of these products to cease immediately," the Health Department said in a news release. "And it calls upon local health officials to distribute the order and check for compliance."

It lists brands such as Spice, K2, Mr. Nice Guy and Galaxy Gold as those that are banned, along with other plant matter coated in chemicals designed to mimic the effect of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.

District offices of the state Department of Health will enforce the ban starting Thursday, and county health departments will assist, said Michael Moran, a spokesman for the Department of Health.

Those who choose to disobey the order risk legal action from the state Attorney General's Office and fines, Moran said. The amount of the fines was unclear Thursday.

"Generally we have found that most stores will comply," Moran said.

Enforcement did not appear to have begun in the Glens Falls area Thursday morning.

The Valero store on Route 9 in Queensbury still had a large display of herbal incense products for sale shortly before noon Thursday, and the clerk on duty said he was not aware of the ban.

"No one has been here," the clerk, who did not give his name, said.

The Getty station on Ridge Street in Glens Falls had sold the products for months, but owner Oscar Patel said Thursday he removed them a week or so ago after learning of the problems they were causing.

Earlier this week, Warren County officials began the process of passing a county law criminalizing the sale and possession of herbal incense and synthetic marijuana in light of the health problems they have been blamed for.

Warren County District Attorney Kate Hogan and Queensbury Supervisor Dan Stec, chairman of the Warren County Board of Supervisors, praised the move.

"It makes more sense for the state to do it (instead of individual counties)," Stec said. "It's a step in the right direction."

Hogan was among a group of local law enforcement officials who had pushed for a local ban in Warren County in light of state legislative inaction. She pointed out that state Sen. Elizabeth Little, R-Queensbury, was among a group of state senators who introduced a bill to ban the substances.

"This is an unusual action taken by the governor," she said.

Essex County District Attorney Kristy Sprague warned parents to be aware that users may still try to purchase the substances online or through mail order sellers. She said parents should monitor payment methods that would be used for these types of sales.

Moran said municipalities may still choose to go forward with their laws, and he pointed to state legislation that has been introduced as well.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, praised the state action and said that federal legislators are "working very hard" to enact a federal ban.

The state issued a similar ban last year on bath salts, another product that was being used by people to try to experience a high.

More details on the ban will be posted when they become available.


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