"There's more people out there being hurt," says Teresa Woolson, who has turned mourning for her son into a mission against synthetic drugs.
19-year-old Victor Woolson drowned last August in Lake Ontario, near Oswego . His family says he got mixed up with some friends who introduced him to synthetic marijuana, which at the time, was legal.
The family gathered Tuesday along with state lawmakers, law enforcers and caregivers, to talk about a new law that Assemblyman Will Barclay (R, Pulaski) is sponsoring, to toughen penalties and make it easier to prosecute sellers.
The proposed law would move the responsibility for declaring a substance dangerous and illegal from legislators to the state's health commissioner (remember how long it look Albany to tackle Bath Salts last year?) This would speed up the process, and keep the laws from falling behind as dealers change labels and contents, something that Oswego County Sheriff Reuel Todd is happy about.
Another major change, sellers could be prosecuted based on effects, not just the contents of what they sell. "That's exactly right. How it affects the noids in your head," says Barclay. 'And that's a unique way of addressing this, too."
"I wanna point out that these synthetics are not drugs like cocaine and heroin," Teresa Woolson told today's news conference at Oswego's Public Safety Building. "They're much more deadly and dangerous. They're poisons, random toxic chemicals, mixed together, masquerading as incense and deoderant."
SUNY Upstate's Poison Control Center had represesentatives at the announcement, with public education coordinator Lee Livermore showing off some of the latest brands of synthetic drugs, which are packaged to look like kids' snacks. He says he found the wrapper for Scooby Snax, as he was walking his dog Tuesday morning, in a Syracuse residential neighborhood, and was showing it to Oswego County DA Greg Oakes. "You people were using this believing it to be safe," said Oakes. "Believing it to be legal, not knowing what the consequences were."
Albany legislators are expected to adjourn for the summer shortly, meaning the bill won't get serious consideration until fall. But Teresa Woolson says she'll be pushing through the summer, to get support for the legislation, and to raise awareness.
"If parents learn what these packages are, what some of the symptoms and signs look like, they can be aware," she says. SUNY Upstate's Poison Control Center is one source of information, with references and background information.