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Deadly ‘Spice’ & ‘K2’ Have Continued to Plague Syracuse & Onondaga County & Synthetic Drug Makers Have Been Step Ahead Of Federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) For Years—Cooking Up New Chemicals As Old Ones Are Made Illegal

Schumer’s Legislation Would Make 22 Chemicals—Including Powerful Variants of Fentanyl—Illegal, Allowing Feds To Play Essential Catch Up 

Schumer: We Need To Dethrone Syracuse’s Label As “Upstate Synthetics King’ 

During a visit to Syracuse, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced new legislation that would make nearly two dozen synthetic substances, including dangerous forms of fentanyl, illegal Schedule I drugs. Schumer said that synthetic drugs like ‘Spice’ and ‘K2’ have plagued Syracuse for years and are often made to seem inviting and harmless. However, they are dangerous chemical concoctions that falsely advertise to users, especially young people, sometimes inducing zombie-like symptoms – and worse. Schumer explained that this legislation helps combat the chemists who cook up batches of synthetics from China and other places, and he said this bill should swiftly pass. Schumer said the DEA has been playing catch up for too long when it comes to combating these dangerous drugs and that states need a federal hammer to nail the scourge that these drugs bring to cities. 

“These dangerous, often deadly substances, leave our emergency rooms in Syracuse and Upstate New York bulging with stupefied users with zombie-like symptoms – and this will only continue if Congress doesn’t act quickly,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “We need a federal hammer to nail these toxic concoctions of synthetic drugs to reverse this troubling trend Syracuse has seen. 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. Banning these drugs quickly will help the feds step up their game of whack-a-mole so that we can help stem the tide of synthetic drug use here in New York State and across the country.”

According to a report from the Post Standard, Onondaga County and the City of Syracuse have recently become considered an epicenter of synthetic drugs. Schumer said this is because the synthetic drug scourge has seemed to disproportionately affect Syracuse compared to other areas, with Upstate New York Poison Center reporting 509 hospital cases involving synthetic cannabinoids just last year; this was up from 123 cases in 2014 and more than any other county north of New York City. According to the report, in 2015, there were six deaths linked to the use of synthetic drugs in Onondaga County alone, including a “spike” in April of 2015 in which 19 overdoses were reported in one day. Schumer said these incidents and statistics provide evidence of a growing problem in Central New York, and therefore argued that Congress must do something to address this growing epidemic.

Despite efforts to limit synthetic drugs, synthetic marijuana and other hazardous drug-like products continue to be sold at local bodegas or on the Internet. Synthetic drugs are often a toxic combination of chemicals made to mimic 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive ingredient of marijuana. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, synthetic drugs can be extremely dangerous and addictive, with health effects ranging from fast heartbeat and high blood pressure, to nausea, vomiting, seizures, intense hallucinations, psychotic episodes and suicidal thoughts. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), chronic uses can even lead to psychosis. A new CDC report released on July 15 says that synthetic cannabinoids are two to 100 times more potent that THC, the active ingredient in cannabis.

Schumer is therefore urging Congress to pass the “Dangerous Synthetic Drug Control Act of 2016,” (S.3224) which would reduce the availability of the synthetic drugs chemists use to make K2 and other dangerous synthetics. Schumer said this bill adds 22 synthetic substances to Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. Eleven of these substances are synthetic cannabinoids, often marketed as K2 or Spice. These substances are usually misleadingly referred to as synthetic marijuana, because they are designed to mimic the effects of THC.  However, Schumer said the side effects of these chemicals are far more dangerous. Three of these substances are derivatives of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid estimated to be 100 times more powerful than morphine. Fentanyl and its derivatives have been associated with numerous overdoses in recent years. The DEA has temporarily scheduled seven of the 22 substances as imminent hazards to the public safety. However, Schumer explained that, further action must be taken to permanently protect the public and that’s why Congress should pass this bill.

Schumer was joined by Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler, Chief Joseph Ciciarelli, Onondaga County Sherriff’s Department, Dr. Indu Gupta, Commissioner of the Onondaga County Health Department, Michele Caliva, Administrative Director Upstate New York Poison Center And members of the Onondaga County Drug Task Force.

“Synthetic drugs are a demonstrable scourge in cities across the United States and we need a strong national solution to help police departments address this critical issue,” said Syracuse Mayor Stephanie A. Miner. “I am pleased to stand with Senator Schumer and leaders in law enforcement and public health in recognizing the seriousness of this issue and working on a multi-faceted response. I urge Congress to pass the Dangerous Synthetic Drug Control Act of 2016.”

Schumer has long supported measures to crackdown on synthetic marijuana use across the country. Schumer explained that, between the years 2009 and 2012, synthetic drug abuse was on the rise. In response, Schumer fought hard in Congress 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 the 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.