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Synthetic Marijuana Use on the Rise in Onondaga County, Concerns Health, Law Enforcement

John Smith/WAER News

  Local Authorities are working together to address a growing trend of people using synthetic marijuana (known as Spice and Spike) in Syracuse and Onondaga County that continues to land people in the hospital and is a real public health threat.  Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler says his department has been dealing with an upsurge in calls.

“From April to May we’ve responded to 131 calls for overdoses on Spike.  Keep in mind these are calls we’re responding to.  This doesn’t count for people who go up to the hospital on their own.  It’s only a matter of time before someone is going to lose their life using this stuff.”

And for that reason Fowler says he turned to the Onondaga County District Attorney’s Office and other law enforcement partners for assistance. As County District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick explains, corner store owners will no longer be allowed to sell synthetic marijuana.

“We’re using existing statues, reckless endangerment, because as Chief Fowler said, this is poison.  If somebody sold arsenic and put an M-&-M’s label on it, we’d arrest that person, wouldn’t we?  If somebody knowingly sells this garbage to someone and that person then goes out and commits some heinous act, there may be much more serious felony charges leveled against the owners of those stores.”   

Corner store owners were delivered notices in the City of Syracuse today informing of the dangerous health problem that exists as a result of the drugs. (letter below) They can’t possess, manufacture or sell synthetic marijuana. Onondaga County Health Commissioner Dr. Indu Gupta says it’s difficult to determine the various chemicals the patients arriving to hospitals have inhaled.

“The tests that are available in emergency rooms and laboratories they’re not able to identify them, so that complicates when physician is taking care of these patients.” 

Gupta says the synthetic marijuana can affect every organ system in the body and also lead to mental health issues. City Lawmakers are looking to place an addendum onto a city ordinance which bans the sale of bath salts to also include synthetic marijuana.

Credit District Attorney William Fitzpatrick

Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.