ALBANY - A pair of bills meant to cut down on methamphetamine use picked up Senate approval this week.
One bill, sponsored by Sen. Tom O’Mara, R-Big Flats, Chemung County, would increase the criminal penalties in the state for people caught with the drug, putting the punishment in line with the felony penalties for cocaine and heroin. The other would make it tougher to buy large quantities of cold medicine -- a key meth ingredient -- while adopting a "stop-sale system" that would prevent cashiers from selling illegal amounts. Both bills were widely approved by the Senate on Wednesday, and they now head to the Assembly.
“We’ve been witnessing an alarming increase across the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions and statewide over the past few years in the production, sale, and use of meth, as well as heroin and other illegal drugs,” O’Mara said in a statement.
O'Mara's bill would amend the penal law to create criminal charges for anyone caught with compounds used to create meth, including mixtures containing the drug, salts, isomers or salts of isomers. The Republican-controlled Senate passed the measure 53-5 on Wednesday, but it faces a tougher climb in the Democrat-led Assembly, which has long expressed caution about increasing penalties for drug users.
The bill is sponsored in the Assembly by Buffalo-area Democrat Sean Ryan. The bill has one co-sponsor: Assemblyman Phil Palmesano, R-Corning, Steuben County. “We want to make sure methamphetamines are treated the same as heroin and cocaine,” Ryan spokesman Cody Meyers said. “We want to make sure New York State doesn’t become a haven for meth labs.” Meyers also said that other states neighboring New York, such as Ohio, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, have recently bolstered penalties for meth crimes.
"You think of methamphetamine as a problem in the West or the Southern part of the country, but it’s really starting to come closer to the East Coast,” he said. “We want to make sure that it doesn’t really take hold of New York as much as it has other parts of the country.”
If caught with the intent to sell ingredients to manufacture the drug, the charge would become a Class B felony.
The intent to sell one-eighth of an ounce or more would also become a charge of a Class B felony, and a class A-1 felony would become the penalty if there were intent to sell a weight of two ounces or more. It would also become a Class D felony to possess a weight of over 100 milligrams of the drug and a Class C felony to possess one gram or more. For a possessed weight of five ounces or more, the penalty would be amended to a Class A-1 felony. The cold-medicine bill, meanwhile, would require the state to make the "stop-sale system" available to retailers and pharmacies across the state at no cost to the business.
The system would be part of the Consumer Healthcare Products Association's pre-existing program, which is funded by cold-medicine manufacturers.
By Nick Muscavich - Pressconnect/March 3, 2016
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