SCHUMER URGES FEDS TO BAN SALE OF NEW, DANGEROUS SYNTHETIC DRUGS SUCH AS ‘CLOUD 9’ THAT HAVE CROPPED UP IN BATAVIA SCHOOLS & RECENTLY SENT 4 LOCAL STUDENTS TO THE HOSPITAL – MANY SYNTHETIC DRUGS SHOCKINGLY ARE STILL LEGAL DESPITE SERIOUS HEALTH CONCERNS
Feds Banned Over 20 Chemical Substances Used in Synthetic Drugs in 2012, But Synthetic Drug Makers Skirt Around Law By Packaging & Selling New Combinations Sold Under Established Brand Names Like “Cloud 9” – Synthetic Drugs Have Shown Up In Local Schools, Including 2 Students from Churchville-Chili School District Who Went To Hospital; These Drugs Can Lead to Seizures, Hallucinations & Panic Attacks
Schumer Bill Passed in 2012 Gave DEA The Power To Investigate & Ban Many Synthetic Drug Combinations, But There Are Still Hundreds of Hazardous Substances Not On The Banned List – Schumer Urges DEA To Speed Up Investigation & Ban Synthetic Drugs That Are Making Kids Sick, Also Pushes To Pass Bill That Would Make Banning Synthetic Drugs Easier
Schumer: Synthetic Drugs Continue To Put Batavia Kids In Danger & New Chemical Combinations Must Be Made Illegal
Today, at Batavia High School, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer urged the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to add new synthetic drug chemical combinations that have emerged over the past several years – and sickened Batavia students – to its list of banned controlled substances. Schumer said that despite efforts to limit synthetic drugs and other hazardous drug-like products, they are still being sold online and on store shelves. Schumer said these synthetic drugs are making kids sick, citing recent incidents at Batavia High School where four kids became severely ill and went to the hospital early this school year after experimenting with a synthetic drug called “Cloud 9,” and a separate incident in December 2014 where two students from Churchville-Chili School District in Monroe County were hospitalized after using synthetic drugs laced in an e-cigarette. These drugs can lead to seizures, hallucinations, high blood pressure, rapid heart rate, and panic attacks, as well as dangerous and erratic behavior, which is why Schumer sponsored and passed a bill in 2012 that enhanced the DEA's enforcement power to ban many forms of these chemicals. Schumer said that the DEA currently has identified around 300 unique synthetic drug chemicals, but they have not yet added the majority of them to their list of controlled substances.
Schumer urged the DEA to add these chemicals to their list of controlled substances quickly, as the problem is re-emerging in Batavia and throughout Western New York and the Finger Lakes region. Schumer also pushed a bill he has co-sponsored that will help crack down on new synthetic chemical compounds that are likely to emerge in coming years, which is critical to combating the growing threat posed by these dangerous drugs.
“Despite efforts to crack down on synthetic drugs, their recent re-emergence in Batavia and elsewhere shows that these horrible chemical compounds are far from being in the rear-view mirror,” said Schumer. “Statistics show that synthetic drug use is on an upswing, and that is largely because synthetic drug makers are skirting around restrictions that have been put in place by developing new, dangerous chemical compounds that are not yet regulated. As a result, more and more kids are ending up in the emergency room, and it is time for federal law to catch up.”
Schumer continued, “I helped pass legislation in 2012 that gave the DEA enhanced authority to ban new synthetic drugs, but they are currently researching about 300 different compounds to decide whether they should be added to the controlled substances list. For the sake of Genesee County kids and families, we cannot afford to wait any longer. That is why I am urging the DEA to quickly ban these types of chemical compounds, and any substances similar in nature to those that are already banned, so that we can stem the tide of synthetic drug use that is rising again.”
Synthetic drugs are a toxic combination of chemicals made to mimic 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive ingredient of marijuana. Schumer explained that these drugs are very powerful and often come with severe side effects because they are powerful chemicals that are not tested for safety. These drugs are often made to seem inviting and harmless – sold under names like “K2,” “incense,” “spice,” etc. – but in actuality they are dangerous chemical concoctions, and this false advertising lures users in. According to the Congressional Research Service, the effects of synthetic drugs ranges from nausea to drug-induced psychosis, making the harmful nature of the drugs unpredictable and making them unsafe for human consumption.
Schumer explained that, between the years 2009 and 2012, synthetic drug abuse was on the rise. In response, Schumer helped to pass the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act of 2012 that banned many forms of these chemicals and enhanced DEA authority to ban new ones that emerge. As part of the legislation, Congress used its legislative authority to place over 20 chemical compounds that had been used in synthetic marijuana and other synthetic drugs into Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), the classification for the most dangerous drugs. The legislation gave DEA enhanced authority to temporarily place uncontrolled substances that pose an imminent hazard to public safety, like these synthetic chemicals, into Schedule I of the CSA.
After passing the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act, synthetic drug usage declined, however, according to data from the American Association of Poison Control Centers, synthetic drug use is back on the rise again, with human exposures in 2014 far outpacing the number of exposures in 2013. Specifically, synthetic-drug related calls to Upstate New York poison control almost tripled between 2013 – from 53 calls to 142. Schumer said that this startling increase, that is taking place despite the federal crack-down, can largely be attributed to synthetic drug retailers and makers who are now developing synthetic drugs with new chemical compounds that are not currently on the DEA’s controlled substance list. Schumer said the DEA is currently investigating approximately 300 of these compounds, which have been found in synthetic drugs across the country, but the DEA has yet to add the majority of them to the list of controlled substances. Therefore, given these recent incidents at Batavia High School where four kids became severely ill and were sent to the emergency room after experimenting with a synthetic drug called “Cloud 9” and the rise in synthetic drug usage across the country, Schumer is calling on the DEA to act quickly in banning more of the nearly 300 dangerous chemical compounds on its list that are used to make synthetic drugs before the problem becomes more rampant. Schumer also noted that two kids from Churchville-Chili School District in Monroe County in Western New York were hospitalized in December 2014 after using synthetic drugs laced in an e-cigarette. Schumer said that his 2012 legislation enhanced the DEA’s authority to ban these chemicals and they must act quicker to stem this tide of new cases.
Schumer also said that even though New York State issued a public health regulation making it illegal to manufacture, distribute, sell or offer to sell synthetic cannabinoids or any compound that has a chemical structure that is substantially similar to psychoactive chemicals, teens and young people can just as easily purchase synthetic drugs out of state or on the Internet with little to no consequence. With this rapid increase, and enhanced availability, in synthetic drug usage, Schumer is asking that the DEA prioritize using its emergency scheduling authority under the Controlled Substances Act to make illegal as many dangerous chemical compounds as possible. Schumer said that the federal government must do what it can to keep these harmful compounds off the street and out of the hands of young people.
Schumer also pushed for the passage of the Protecting Our Youth from Dangerous Synthetic Drugs Act. This bill was re-introduced last month, with Schumer as an original co-sponsor, and is designed to further combat synthetic drugs. Schumer explained that this legislation, authored by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), would make it illegal to import controlled substance analogues—or alternative hazardous synthetic drugs — for human consumption and establish an inter-agency committee of scientists and the DEA responsible for the establishment and maintenance of an administrative list of controlled substance analogues. Schumer said that synthetic drug makers will continue to try to produce chemical compounds that skirt around federal law, and as a result, legislation like this is needed to provide the DEA with more authority to prevent new synthetics that are bound to crop up in the years to come.
Schumer was joined by Batavia High School Principal Scott Wilson; Batavia School District Superintendent Chris Daley; Sgt. Greg Walker, Genesee County Sherriff Department; and Pam LaBrou, Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, Inc (GCASA).
“We've experienced first-hand the continued dangers that synthetic drugs like Cloud 9 and others pose to our students. After four students this school year had to be taken to the Emergency Room with severe health issues due to synthetics, we took steps to ban their use at school but this is a national issue so we appreciate Senator Schumer's support to make these drugs illegal and keep our kids safe,” said Scott Wilson, Batavia High School Principal.
“We know that when we address accessibility and increased regulations, youth drug and alcohol use is affected, said Executive Director John Bennett. We also know that a multi-faceted approach includes educating the public about the harmful effects of drugs including synthetic and designer drugs. GCASA works diligently with our community partners, including Senator Schumer, to address youth drug and alcohol use.”
In 2014, Schumer pushed to ban these new synthetic drug compounds on the heels of an incident in September where six Pleasantville High School students in Westchester were sickened and three were rushed to the hospital after smoking a synthetic marijuana called “spice.” Schumer also noted that over the course of four days in the summer of 2014, 15 New York City residents were hospitalized following synthetic marijuana use, which led to the city’s Department of Health issuing a warning to stay away from synthetic drug products.
Senator Schumer’s letter to the DEA Administrator appears below:
Dear Administrator Leonhart,
I write to you today to once again shed light on an issue that needs to be met head on with the strong resolve of both Congress and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Despite our efforts, synthetic drugs, extremely dangerous chemical compounds with harmful effects, are still marketed and sold to children and young adults. As I have previously outlined, working with the DEA in 2012, Congress used its legislative authority to place over 20 chemical compounds that had been used in synthetic marijuana and other synthetic drugs into Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 811, the Attorney General has the authority (which has been delegated to the DEA Administrator) to temporarily place an uncontrolled substance into Schedule I of the CSA if it is deemed to present an imminent hazard to public safety. Congress also expanded this emergency scheduling authority to allow the DEA to ban similarly dangerous new combinations quicker and I am thankful that since that time, the DEA has used this authority over twenty times.
Unfortunately, criminals have continued to create new chemical formulas that have not yet been listed as controlled substances under the CSA. Additionally, while the sale of analogue substances marketed as brand names such as “Spice”, “K2” or “Cloud-9” has been banned in some states, including New York, this has not stopped them from popping up both online as well as in stores across the country. Over the past year, I have seen cases all over New York that have shown that this problem is not going away. In New York City, there was a 220% increase in emergency visits related to synthetic drugs in 2014, and in Westchester, three high school students ended up in the hospital last September after abuse of these substances. Most recently, four students from Batavia High School in Genesee County have had to be taken to the emergency room with severe health issues caused by synthetic drugs.
In September, I asked that the DEA prioritize using your emergency scheduling authority under the Controlled Substances Act to make illegal as many dangerous chemical compounds as possible. The federal government must do what it can to keep these harmful compounds off the street and out of the hands of our citizens. As part of the confirmation process, I also asked Attorney General Nominee Loretta Lynch to more readily use these powers, and I am hopeful that more progress will be made upon her confirmation. As Administrator, you must also be ready to take strong and immediate action to prevent these drugs from reaching young adults.
I thank you for your attention to this important matter, and hope that we can work together in a more expeditious manner to prevent the sale and distribution of these harmful chemicals.
Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator
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