U.S. Rep. John Katko is partnering with a Democrat on legislation to combat another drug crisis affecting central New York.
Katko, R-Camillus, and U.S. Rep. David Cicciline, a Rhode Island Democrat, have introduced the Dangerous Synthetic Drug Control Act. The bill would add 22 synthetic chemicals, including forms of fentanyl and 11 substances used to manufacturer synthetic marijuana, to Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act.
The legislation, which has been introduced in the Senate by U.S. Sens. Charles Grassley and Chuck Schumer, is also touted as a law enforcement measure. Supporters say it will help prosecute synthetic drug traffickers.
The rise of synthetic drugs has been documented nationwide, but it's a growing problem in central New York. Katko noted that Syracuse has been referred to as "Spike Nation," which was the title of a 2014 New York Times Magazine story on the city's synthetic drug epidemic.
Spike is one of the many names for synthetic marijuana.
"The bill I've introduced will provide support to our local law enforcement in removing these dangerous substances from our streets and will make it more difficult for manufacturers to produce this poison," Katko said in a statement. "I'm grateful for the bipartisan support of Rep. Cicilline, and look forward to working together to ensure that this bill moves forward in the House."
Cicilline added that synthetic drugs pose "an immediate threat to the health and well-being of men, women and children across our country."
"This legislation makes it easier for authorities to crack down on these dangerous substances and keep families safe," he said. "I'm pleased to be joining Congressman Katko today and working across the aisle to get this done."
A central New York parent who lost her son to a synthetic drug overdose four years ago is supporting the measure.
Teresa Woolson of Oswego has endorsed Katko's push to crack down on the chemicals used to manufacture synthetic drugs.
"I continue to applaud efforts by Congressman Katko to help save lives from synthetic drugs," she said. "The death rate continues to climb and this legislation will help prosecute those involved with distributing deadly poisons through our communities."
This isn't the first measure Katko has sponsored to combat the synthetic drug epidemic. He rolled out the Protecting Our Youth from Dangerous Drugs Act late last year.
The purpose of the bill is to help make it easier to prosecute those who sell or distribute synthetic drugs.
The measure has 34 cosponsors and is awaiting action by a House subcommittee.