Schumer Pushes for Ban on Synthetic Marijuana

March 12, 2012 Updated Mar 12, 2012 at 5:56 PM EDT

By Allen Leight

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March 12, 2012 Updated Mar 12, 2012 at 5:56 PM EDT

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) - U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) made a stop in Buffalo on Monday to push legislation he has co-sponsored that would ban the sale of all types of synthetic marijuana, regardless how they're marketed.

"Because by marketing it as K-2 or Spice and changing it slightly in terms of its chemical nature but not changing its effect, synthetic marijuana isn't regulated. That's completely unacceptable," said Schumer at a press conference outside of Erie County Court Monday afternoon.

Schumer was joined by Dr. Richard Blondell from Erie County Medical Center's Chemical Dependency Unit and Erie County Sheriff Tim Howard.

Synthetic marijuana is often packaged and sold as potpourri or incense and posts a warning against human consumption.

"Even when we're able to find some of the chemicals we don't really know what's in all of the mixture, and there's usually a mixture of chemicals that are sprayed on some leafy product to be smoked. So even the consumer is not quite sure what they're getting," said Dr. Blondell.

Synthetic marijuana has been tied to seizures, increased heart rate and blood pressure, hallucinations, erratic behavior and even death. It is often considered to be more dangerous to the body than natural marijuana.

According to Senator Schumer, calls to poison control centers concerning the use of synthetic marijuana have jumped from just 13 in 2009 up to more than 6,500 last year alone.

The ban has passed the House of Representatives, but is currently being held up in the Senate by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), who says current federal drug penalties are out of whack and can keep someone in prison for 20 years.

A spokesman for Sen. Paul told The Lexington Herald-Leader that he believes "enforcement of most drug laws can and should be local and state issues."

Synthetic marijuana can often be purchased at small deli's and convenience stores, and has been known to be available for sale at reservation smoke shops.

On Saturday, the Seneca Nation Council voted to ban the sale of synthetic marijuana, bath salts and drug paraphernalia on all five nation territories.