Warren County District Attorney Kate Hogan talks of how the use of synthetic marijuana and herbal incense producte has been linked to violent and brutal crimes as well as suicidal urges and various health problems — and is a fast-growing problem among youth in the area. State Trooper James West (right) listens to Hogan’s observations, before telling county supervisors about his own similar experiences in dealing with suspects who’ve ingested the substances.
After hearing compelling details about the link between synthetic marijuana and violent crimes, Warren County supervisors endorsed a proposed law banning the substances.
The supervisors serving on the county Legislative and Criminal Justice committees voted unanimously Tuesday March 27 to enact a law prohibiting the sale, use, possession or distribution of synthetic marijuana and herbal incense.
The proposed law is now headed or the full county Board of Supervisors at their April 20 meeting, and the board is expected to set a public hearing on the law for mid-May. The law could be in effect in late May.
At the March 27 meeting, county District Attorney Kate Hogan and state Trooper James West described how the various synthetic marijuana substances — now readily available in “head” shops, tobacco outlets and convenience stores — that when ingested can promp violent, criminal behavior as well as psychotic reactions, thoughts of suicide and hallucinations.
Hogan spoke of two recent cases in which men committed violent crimes under the influence of synthetic marijuana.
She talked of an 18-year-old man, considered normally a kind, calm person, who under the drug’s influence stabbed his mother with a knife 13 times, causing severe injuries. She noted he was recently sent to state prison for five years.
Hogan also spoke of how a man — now serving a 10-year prison sentence — brutally beat a woman and a small child after smoking the substance.
Hogan and West said that such synthetic marijuana substitutes were becoming prevalent in schools, and were causing grave concerns among school administrators. It is sold under the trade names “Posh, “Wicked X,” “K2” and many others.
West talked about how he had responded to an emergency call to find a 14-year-old boy under the influence who was totally out of control and expressing thoughts of committing murder.
“This guy was super-screwed up,” West said. Both he and Hogan both talked of the serious detrimental health and psychological damage the substances could cause, noting that many users from their teens through their 40s were ending up in the Glens Falls Hospital Emergency Center for treatment.
Warren County Attorney Martin Auffredou said the proposed law was based on laws enacted in New Jersey and the cities of Albany and Auburn NY, as well as Suffolk County NY.
The law has the clout of a Misdemeanor, Violators can face jail sentences of up to one year and fines as high as $1,000.
Glens Falls Ward 5 Supervisor Bill Kenny expressed his full support of the law.
“It’s imperative we do everything we can to prohibit these substances,” he said. “We can’t act quick enough on this.”
Horicon Supervisor Ralph Bentley agreed.
“This law will get rid of the source of this stuff,” he added.
Hogan noted that state Sen. Betty Little of Queensbury had co-sponsored a statewide ban of synthetic marijuana, and it was now under consideration in the state Senate. The state Assembly, however, has no such counterpart bill, and Hogan predicted it would be many months before a statewide ban would receive serious consideration.
She added that the Warren County supervisors enacting a prohibition soon would likely prompt the state to give such a law serious consideration.
“These substances have an enormous impact on the health and safety of our kids,” she said.
County Probation Director Robert Iusi said he was aware of a steep increase in the last few months in the use of synthetic marijuana among both youth and adult probationers. Amy Bartlett of the county Attorney’s office reported that she had witnessed a similar increase in Family Court cases that involved youths ingesting synthetic marijuana.
County Probation Supervisor Mark Sager reported that many of the county’s 600 probationers of various ages are getting around probation rules banning the use of illegal substances by smoking synthetic marijuana or herbal incense instead of ingesting cocaine or alcohol.
After the vote March 27, Hogan said she was pleased the county supervisors took quick action.
“I’m very happy on the local leaders and Betty Little for their positions on the issue,” she said.
Thurman Supervisor Evelyn Wood also offered praise.
“I commend everyone for doing such a good job in drafting this proposed bill in such a short period of time,” she said.
Warren County District Attorney Kate Hogan talks of how the use of synthetic marijuana and herbal incense products has been linked to violent and brutal crimes as well as suicidal urges and various health problems — and is a fast-growing problem among youth in the area. State Trooper James West (right) listens to Hogan’s observations, before telling county supervisors about his own similar experiences in dealing with suspects who’ve ingested the substances.
Photo by Thom Randall