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Hempstead officials call for crackdown on synthetic marijuana use

At a news conference outside Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow on Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015, Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray and other elected officials renewed a call to outlaw synthetic marijuana and require additional drug testing for felons. (Credit: News 12 Long Island) (Photo Credit: Ed Betz)

Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray and other elected officials on Tuesday renewed a call to outlaw synthetic marijuana and require additional drug testing for felons.

Murray was joined by Sen. Michael Venditto (R-Massapequa) and Assemb. Edward Ra (R-Franklin Square) in front of Nassau University Medical Center's emergency room in calling for state legislation outlawing the sale, manufacturing and possession of synthetic marijuana and drugs known as spice, such as K2.

Murray said New York recorded 2,000 emergency room visits related to the drug's use statewide from April to June. There are multiple bills in the state legislature that would criminalize the use of the drug, she said.

"It's time to declare war on synthetic marijuana," Murray said.

Murray, who's running for Nassau County district attorney in the November general election, held the town-sponsored event, not as a function of her campaign.

Acting District Attorney Madeline Singas, a Democrat who is also pursuing the post, said the sale of synthetic cannabis is already banned under Nassau County legislation passed in 2012 and criminalization was first proposed in 2010 by District Attorney Kathleen Rice, her former boss.

She said legislation often lags behind different chemical compositions of drugs that change to skirt the law. She said she has worked to toughen driving while impaired laws to encompass all types of designer drugs in charges.

"We've been occupying this lane for a long time," Singas said. "This isn't a new problem. We can't wait for them to put a new drug on the list before we can charge it. Locally and at the state level, legislation has been slow to act and criminals are one step ahead of us."

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