Senate passes bill to outlaw synthetic drugs

The state Senate wants to make the punishment for selling or possessing synthetic drugs to be about the same as the punishment for using the real thing.

The upper house of the state Legislature has passed a bill targeting synthetic marijuana. State Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-47, Rome, supports the action.

"Drug abuse is a pervasive problem impacting a growing number of families across our state," said Griffo, a cosponsor of the measure. "These chemicals are just as dangerous as drugs that already have been criminalized, and we need to continue to take action to protect the health and safety of our communities by banning the sale and possession of synthetic marijuana and bath salts."

There is a companion bill in the Assembly, but it has not come to a vote yet.

While Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed Griffo’s law to ban the sale of "bath salts" last year and just last month the state Health Department banned the sale and distribution of synthetic marijuana through an order, possession of these substances — that can be purchased outside the state or via the Internet — continues to be legal. The measure goes a step further and criminalizes the possession of these products. Sale of these substances to a minor, or on or near school grounds, would constitute a felony punishable by up to 25 years in prison.