Council will also vote on legislation to provide critical information on student safety in city schools
City Hall – Today the City Council will vote on a legislative package of 3 bills to combat the spread of “K2” synthetic cannabinoids in New York City through increased enforcement and stronger penalties. The Council will also vote on legislation ensuring increased transparency with regard to safety and discipline in city schools. Additionally, the Council will vote on legislation extending health insurance to the surviving family members of a recently deceased employee of the Sanitation Department. Finally, the Council will approve landmark designation for the Stonewall Inn, an iconic historical location in the LGBT equality movement.
“K2” Synthetic Marijuana
The use of “K2”, a popular synthetic cannabinoid product, has become widespread in certain areas of New York City. While it is advertised as an alternative to marijuana, sometimes even being referred to as “synthetic marijuana,” the effects of K2 are unpredictable and can be dangerous. While K2 is illegal, manufacturers and distributors exploit legal loopholes to keep the product on the street. Today the Council is voting on a package of three bills to help reign in the spread and sale of K2.
Introduction 917-A, sponsored by Council Member Ruben Wills, will prohibit the manufacture and sale of synthetic cannabinoids (sometimes referred to as synthetic marijuana, K2, or other brand names) and synthetic phenethylamine (sometimes sold as “bath salts”) or imitations of these substances. In addition to criminal and civil penalties, the bill will authorize the sealing of businesses that violate the provisions of this bill twice in a three-year period. It will not criminalize possession of these substances if such substances are not manufactured, being sold, offered for sale, displayed for sale, distributed for sale, or possessed with intent to sell them by the possessing individual.
“Today, the Council has taken a great step forward in choking off the K2 pipeline,” said Council Member Ruben Wills. “The bills we enacted today reflect the will of this body to take a thoughtful yet tough approach to reining in the K2 public health crisis that has threatened to engulf our City. They will empower our law enforcement and civilian agencies to stop the flow of synthetic marijuana onto our streets, and the penalties they impose will not burden individual users, particularly those who may be in need of treatment. I thank Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Council Members Anthony Reynoso, Ritchie Torres, Fernando Cabrera, Vanessa Gibson, and Andrew Cohen for joining me in championing this legislation.”
Introduction 885-A, sponsored by Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, will mandate the suspension of a cigarette dealer license for any licensed cigarette dealer who violates the provisions of the proposed synthetic drug prohibition outlined in Introduction 917-A. The bill will create a mandatory revocation for a second violation of such proposed prohibition. It will also allow the Department of Consumer Affairs commissioner to take such violations into account as they consider whether to grant future cigarette dealer licenses to such violator.
“The City Council has led the charge to get K2 off the shelves and away from our most vulnerable citizens,” said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “This has been an issue of great personal importance to me, with Lexington Avenue and 125th Street in East Harlem being very seriously impacted by the drug. And today we have a legislative package to combat the spread of K2.”
Additionally, Introduction 897, sponsored by Council Member Garodnick, will add violations of Introduction 917-A to the factors that allow the declaration of a public nuisance under the City’s Nuisance Abatement Law. The bill will allow a court, under the Nuisance Abatement Law, to issue restraining and closing orders against premises that repeatedly violate the proposed synthetic drug prohibition.
“K2 is a drug that is doing significant harm in our City, and demands a unique approach to enforcement,” said Council Member Dan Garodnick. “These bills will give us some important tools to get K2 off our streets.”
All three of these bills will go into effect 60 days after becoming law.
“We cannot ignore the abundance of synthetic cannabinoids within our communities. K2 is an unregulated and potentially deadly substance and I am proud to be a part of the legislative effort to address this growing epidemic,” said Council Public Safety Committee Chair Vanessa Gibson. “As Chair of the Committee on Public Safety, I am confident that this comprehensive and necessary package will enhance the City’s ongoing efforts to get K2 out of our neighborhoods. I commend the leadership of Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito on this issue and am pleased to be a part of a Council that is committed to innovative drug policy that criminalizes the actions of manufactures and distributors, rather than those of substance abusers.”
Introduction 730-A, sponsored by Council Member Vanessa Gibson, will expand the current reporting that the Department of Education (DOE) provides to the Council relating to school discipline pursuant to Local Law 6 of 2011, known as the Student Safety Act. Specifically, it will require expanded reporting from the DOE relating to student suspensions, teacher removals, student transfers during suspension, and instances where EMS is called and students are transported to a hospital.
The bill also requires the New York City Police Department (NYPD) to report on data relating to the use of handcuffs in schools, arrests, summonses and violations issued in a school or on school grounds, complaints lodged against School Safety Agents (SSA’s), as well as injuries sustained by SSA’s due to student misconduct. NYPD would also be required to report on permanent and temporary metal detectors in schools.
This bill will take effect on January 1st, 2016.
“The safety of our students is extremely important but so is the climate in which our students learn,” said Council Member Vanessa Gibson. “By making these much needed amendments to the Student Safety Act, we will have an even great breadth of data from which we can devise smart and meaningful policy and permanent disciplinary code reform. Suspensions and zero tolerance policies have been proven to adversely impact our most vulnerable students and ultimately do not lead to positive behavioral changes or academic success. I am so pleased to have the support of the administration and Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito on this bill, the partnership of my colleague Council Members Corey Johnson, the support of Chair of the Committee on Education Council Member Danny Dromm, and the assistance of so many dedicated advocates as we together shift the conversation on school safety away from detention and towards one of de-escalation and prevention.”
Extension of Health Insurance for Surviving Family of Sanitation Worker
Introduction 903, sponsored by Council Member Daneek Miller would amend the law so that the family of a Department of Sanitation enforcement official who died on 7/29/15, Frank Musella, can continue to receive health benefits
“Earlier this year Sergeant Frank Musella lost his life in the performance of duty to our City. Today, we gather to reaffirm our commitment to workers, including Sgt. Musella, by ensuring that members of his family are properly cared for,” said Council Member I. Daneek Miller, Chair of the Committee on Civil Service and Labor. “This Council places the greatest value on workers, both during their time of service and beyond. I would like to thank my colleagues on the committee and throughout the Council as a whole for their support of this legislation.”
Today the City Council will vote to designate the Stonewall Inn as an historic landmark. The Stonewall Inn is well-known as an important site in the history of the movement towards Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGMT) civil rights. It was the site of the June 28, 1969 “Stonewall Rebellion,” one of the first major public protests against police and government oppression of LGBT communities, an event that gave rise to numerous advocacy organizations and the tradition of celebrating June as LGBT Pride Month.
“We have a responsibility to protect our historic sites for future generations,” said Council Member Corey Johnson. “I thank the Landmarks Preservation Commission and its Chair, Meenakshi Srinivasan, for initiating landmark designation for the Stonewall Inn, birthplace of the modern LGBT rights movement. When I first visited New York City, the first place I wanted to go was the Stonewall Inn. I stood outside and felt a deep connection to this place that I had read and heard so much about. To now be the Council Member representing the West Village and to have a chance to vote on its landmark designation is incredibly meaningful and special. I want to thank Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and my City Council colleagues for protecting our City’s heritage.”