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Obama to sign ban on synthetic marijuana

President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama Credit: AP

A federal ban on synthetic marijuana and hallucinogenic bath salts is on its way to President Barack Obama for final approval after passing the Senate this week, Sen. Charles Schumer said.

The bill, sponsored by Schumer (D-N.Y.), prohibits the sale of 31 chemical substances sold online, in convenience stores and in smoke shops as synthetic marijuana, bath salts and synthetic hallucinogens.

The drugs, bearing names like Tranquility, Zoom and Legal Phunk, have been reported to provoke fits of violence, panic attacks and suicidal thoughts, mirroring the side effects caused by cocaine and methamphetamines.

"We have seen bath salts involved in some of the most heinous crimes in recent months," Schumer said in a statement.

The federal legislation, passed Tuesday by the Senate and approved earlier by the House, follows state and county efforts to block the sale of synthetic cannabis.

In March, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo ordered a statewide ban on the sale of the incense-like substances. Suffolk County passed a ban in March, and the Nassau County Legislature followed suit in May.

Last year, New York outlawed the distribution of mephedrone and MDPV -- man-made substances used to make the powdery bath salts, which users typically inhale.

The Downstate New York Poison Center, which covers Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties, and New York City, received 111 reports last year of health problems associated with use of synthetic marijuana, Schumer said; 57 cases were referred to emergency rooms because of moderate to major health effects.

Schumer said the proposals to ban the drugs were folded into the broader Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act that Obama is expected to sign.The act will provide the agency with $6 billion in medical industry user fees to fund the review of new drugs and medical devices.

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