New regulations will help crack down on the rapidly expanding synthetic drug industry, the governor announced on Tuesday.
“The actions we are announcing today attack the problem by helping our law enforcement officers enforce the rules, expanding the list of banned substances used to manufacture bath salts and imposing tougher penalties so those who sell these drugs are held accountable,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said.
The state’s Department of Health expanded its list of prohibited drugs and chemicals to include dozens of more substances used to make synthetic drugs. Penalties were also stiffened allowing store owner selling the substances to be charged with possession of an illicit substance and face time behind bars.
Distributors of the drug were skirting laws by tweaking the drug’s ingredients to avoid substances banned by the state’s controlled substances laws.
In June and July, there were 120 emergency room visits as a result of bath salts after just 39 all of 2011, the governor said. More than 300 calls were made to the state’s Poison Control Center in the year’s first six months after only 20 in 2010, the center said.
A hot line was also set up for residents to report establishments selling the illegal substances.
Stiffer federal laws were put into place recently, but the governor said local law enforcement officials for will be able to pursue perpetrators under state laws for the first time.