The White Plains Examiner

New Local Law Bans Synthetic Marijuana

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The Westchester County Board of Legislators (BOL) passed a local law last week banning the sale and possession of synthetic drugs. The Law, which was originally sponsored by Legislator David Tubiolo (R-Yonkers) and Legislator John Testa (R-Peekskill), passed by a unanimous 17-0 vote.

Before the vote, legislators received feedback from members of law enforcement including Westchester County Public Safety Commissioner George Longworth and representatives of the Yonkers and Mount Vernon police departments.

Both county and municipal law enforcement representatives voiced support for the proposed law and reported frequent interactions with individuals under the influence of synthetic marijuana who were “zombie-like,” irrational, violent or suicidal, according to a BOL statement. Law enforcement officials also reported that these incidents are on the rise.

Because of the inexpensive cost of synthetic marijuana, the negative impacts are seen disproportionately among young teens and in low-income areas. Westchester County Consumer Protection Commissioner Mark Fang also indicated his Department’s support for the measure.

The local law would be implemented by amending the “Consumer Protection Code” to include a new Article XXIV entitled “Synthetic Cannabinoids” in relation to restricting the sale and possession of synthetic drugs. The law would be enforced through both local police and Westchester County’s Department of Health.

The civil penalties proposed for violators include a $500 fine for the first offense and $2,000 for a second offense.

Westchester’s law broadens the definition of synthetic drugs to avoid the “cat and mouse game” of slightly altering the chemical composition of the drug to circumvent local laws, which producers have employed in the past.

Legislator Tubiolo is Chair of the Seniors and Constituencies Committee, which has oversight of the County’s Youth Bureau. “I am very pleased to be joined by my colleagues in passing this important piece of legislation. Synthetic marijuana is a serious and dangerous problem from both a public health and law enforcement perspective. We spent a lot of time in researching and writing this Law to be sure that it would be an effective tool for law enforcement. I am hopeful that our work can serve as a template for local, regional and state governments to use in battling this critical problem.”

Legislator Testa, co-sponsor of the law said, “I spent my professional career as a public high school teacher. Kids tend to think they are invincible and some engage in risky behavior like experimenting with drugs. With synthetic marijuana an individual can find themselves in a crisis situation the very first time they use these substances even if they’ve used a very small amount.”

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