Westchester County lawmakers made a stand against the sale of synthetic marijuana this week, voting to sign the first-ever countywide bill banning the drug and many of its counterparts.
In a unanimous vote, the county Board of Legislators voted on Monday, May 8 to enact a countywide ban on the sale of a synthetic drug known colloquially as “spice” and commonly marketed under brand names like “K2.”
According to a sponsor of the bill, David Tubilio, a Yonkers Republican, the law will seek to blockade Westchester against the harmful effects of the drug, which elsewhere across the state and country is sold legally over-the-counter.
“The top priority is public safety, and hopefully this law can protect and prevent,” he said.
In order to help enforce the ban—which encompasses a wide array of chemicals commonly found in products marketed as synthetic marijuana—the bill will also include a fine of up to $2,000 for any business caught selling the banned substances.
Tubilo said enforcement will come through a combination of the county’s health and public safety departments.
Auditors from the health department will peruse businesses for the banned substances, and if deemed necessary, Tubiolo said the police will conduct an investigation.
Reeling in the sale of synthetic marijuana, however, has been a battle for regulators who struggle to stay ahead of the products’ constantly shifting chemical makeups.
Oftentimes, as soon as a substance is banned, manufacturers will skirt laws by slightly altering the compounds recipe.
To prevent those loopholes, Tubiolo—who consulted health professionals, researchers and law enforcement to help draft the bill—said lawmakers attempted to broadly define substances, casting the widest net possible.
In the event that too many loopholes arise, Tubiolo said lawmakers would be required to “tweak and change” the law to help tighten restrictions. Currently, the law bans a total of eight different substances.
Like Westchester, New York state, under Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, has also attempted to stem the tide of synthetic weed, enacting multiple laws to ban compounds on the state level in 2012 and 2015.
-Reporting by James Pero