The New York State Senate passed a bill Monday that criminalizes synthetic marijuana and bath salts.
Previously viewed as "legal drugs," the legislation bans the sale and possession of the substances, which "serve as gateways to further and more devastating drug use," according to State Senator John Flanagan, the bill's sponsor.
The sale of synthetic marijuana was already banned last month by the New York State Department of Heath and bath salts sales were banned last year , but this bill goes one step further, its sponsors say, by also banning the possession of these substances.
Under the legislation, penalties for the sale and possession of synthetic marijuana and bath salts would be similar to those of marijuana and methamphetamines. Sale to a minor - on or near a school - would be punishable by up to 25 years in prison.
The bill does provide a 90 day grace period that allows people to surrender the substances at specific locations without penalty.
Synthetic marijuana had been sold in convenience stores, smoke shops, and tobacco stores with brand names such as "Happy Shaman," "Spice," "K2," "Mr. Nice Guy," and "Galaxy Gold." Lawmakers say the products have dangerous side effects, including rapid heart rate, tremors, loss of consciousness and hallucinations.
Bath salts are said to be closely related to methamphetamines and ecstasy, which the legislators say can cause harmful physical and psychological impacts.
Dr. Jeffrey Reynolds, the Executive Director of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependency urged legislators to pass the bill.
"Fake pot has real health consequences," he said.
The Assembly still needs to act on the measure.
A similar law is already on the books in the City of Rome. Two head shops there have already been busted for selling synthetic marijuana .