Claiming that law enforcement can't keep up with constantly evolving lists of synthetic drugs, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., is introducing legislation to make nearly two dozen synthetic substances — including dangerous forms of fentanyl — illegal Schedule 1 drugs.
Schumer was joined by local law enforcement and other officials at a news conference Friday afternoon in Schuyler County, where he announced a bill that would make it easier for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and other law enforcement to keep up with drug manufacturers who produce K2 — a synthetic form of marijuana — and other dangerous substances.
Synthetic drugs such as K2 are popping up in the Finger Lakes and Schuyler County and are often made to seem inviting and harmless, Schumer said. However, he warned they are dangerous chemical concoctions that falsely advertise to users, especially young people.
“These dangerous, often deadly substances leave our emergency rooms bulging with stupefied users with zombie-like symptoms, and this is a sign of what’s to come if Congress doesn’t act quickly,” Schumer said. “We need a federal hammer to nail these toxic concoctions of synthetic drugs before things get worse. This federal legislation will ban 22 synthetic drugs, including powerful forms of fentanyl, crippling the unlawful chemists cooking up these drugs and the cartels that push them to our local stores and streets."
In February, three Schuyler County residents were arrested for possessing fentanyl, among other drugs, according to Schumer's office. In March, a West Elmira resident overdosed with various substances, including pills laced with fentanyl, at a location later determined to be a hotspot for the sale of illegal substances to high school-aged students.
Broome County law enforcement also responded to five separate cases of overdoses due to synthetic marijuana in just one night in June. This past week, a convenience store in Binghamton was shut down after state police seized packets of synthetic drugs.
These incidents provide evidence of a growing problem in the Southern Tier, Schumer said. That's why he is sponsoring the Dangerous Synthetic Drug Control Act of 2016 and urging Congress to quickly pass it. Among the local officials who joined Schumer at his news conference was Schuyler County District Attorney Joseph Fazzary, who said synthetic drugs are a bigger problem in large cities, but they are making their way into Schuyler County and other rural areas. Synthetic drugs often have much worse effects than the natural substances they are replacing, Fazzary said.
"Marijuana generally is a drug that makes people laid back as opposed to synthetic marijuana, which causes paranoia and hallucinations, and all sorts of bad things," he said. "It is and has been a problem for a while. More and more of these people are showing up in ERs and dying from it."
Synthetic drugs are also becoming more of a problem in Steuben County, said Undersheriff James Allard, who also attended Thursday's event with Schumer. Allard would like to see some kind of bill that clearly defines what a synthetic drug is and bans its manufacture, but he said Schumer's legislation is a step in the right direction.
"Earlier this year, we had three overdoses in a row as a result of a synthetic opioid. Fentanyl that's in society now is 500 times more potent than heroin, and we’re seeing the tendency of manufacturers to mix that with other drugs, which makes those drugs that much more lethal," Allard said. "People are taking drugs they don’t realize have synthetic mixes in them, and it’s causing death. It’s here, and we’re seeing it because whatever is cheaper for drug dealers means more profit with no regard for what it does for human life."
By Jeff Murray - Press Connect/July 29, 2016
Photo: John Shinkle. poitico