New York Senate Passes Bills Addressing Flakka, Pink, Drug Abuse

By Kelly Burch 04/27/17

The bills must now be passed by the New York State Assembly in order for them to be made into law.

Flakka via DEA

The New York Senate recently passed eight bills aimed at curbing drug use—covering everything from synthetic marijuana sales to notifying doctors when their patients overdose on prescription pills. 

“Some of this is just common sense,” said State Senator Christopher Jacobs, a Republican, who co-chairs the Joint Senate Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction.

One bill, passed earlier this week, will require emergency room physicians to notify a patient's primary care doctor when they are being treated for an overdose or any condition related to drug use. The measure is designed to make it harder for patients at risk for substance misuse to access dangerous prescriptions.

“Because right now, you could get treated for an overdose and walk out of the emergency room, and your prescribing doctor might not be aware of that, while continuing to prescribe drugs for you,” said Jacobs.

Six of the measures address loopholes that essentially make some potentially dangerous substances legal under current laws. The most well-known is synthetic marijuana. Senate Bill 3518 criminalizes the possession of synthetic marijuana and makes it a felony to sell it to a minor. 

Other bills add “flakka,” a drug similar to bath salts or methamphetamine; Xylazine, a veterinary drug used to lace heroin; and new derivatives of fentanyl to the controlled substances list. One bill classified “Pink” (also known as U-47700), a synthetic opioid that is unregulated and can be purchased overseas, to the Schedule-I opioid list in the state.

All of these drugs have been found to have potentially fatal health effects. The NY senate also increased the penalty for selling an opioid laced with a fentanyl derivative. 

While the senate has passed the bills, the full NY State Assembly must pass them in order for them to be made into law. Jacobs said that in the past, similar measures have met resistance in the assembly. 

“Typically we have had challenges over in the Assembly, particularly enhancing the criminality of things. We think treatment and prevention are critical, but we need to also let criminals know there will be swift and appropriate penalties when they are selling dangerous drugs which kill people,” he said.

He added that the laws are essential to keeping ahead of illicit drug manufacturers, who are constantly making new formulations of drugs to evade the law. 

“As we pass laws to fit a certain type of substance, they will then change the chemical composition of it just enough so it gets around being illegal. So we are dealing with a sophisticated criminal element here and it’s somewhat of a moving target,” said Jacobs. “So we have to make sure to be vigilant to stay on top of substances which are killing people, and to prosecute these folks.”

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.