Synthetic Marijuana Outbreak
In Brooklyn, NY 33 People were hospitalized yesterday after authorities responded to a series of calls claiming dozens of people were overdosing on synthetic marijuana. K2 is another term for synthetic marijuana, which was banned from the streets of New York since 2015. However, the synthetic designer drug is apparently still abundant within city limits.
The 33 victims were found at the corner, and in the vicinity of Bedford and Stuyvesant, one of New York’s most notorious locations for synthetic marijuana use. Eyewitnesses described the multiple passed out and highly intoxicated individuals as “zombies” likening the scene to that of the tv show, The Walking Dead.
The K2 victims were taken to Woodhull and Wyckoff hospitals which are accustomed to seeing synthetic marijuana overdose incidents but not this many in one day.
Despite the city outlawing synthetic marijuana about a year ago, the events of yesterday show that K2 use may have spiked since being outlawed. The city claims there have been over 6,000 K2 related emergency room visits in since 2015 when it was outlawed, making the 33 from yesterday sound less surprising.
Popularity of Synthetic Marijuana in Brooklyn
One neighborhood resident, Jason Reis, who has lived in the area for eight years claims “in previous years, you might see the same five or 10 guys around, now it’s five new guys every half hour walking around smoking it.”
This increase in traffic may be due to the areas bodega being one of the only remaining places in the state where people can get K2. According to PIX 11 News in New York, neighborhood sidewalks near the bodega are littered with empty synthetic marijuana packages. One employee who works in the area says she frequently sweeps the packages off the sidewalks to avoid deterring business.
As for how the bodegas continue to get away with this, one self-proclaimed addict claims “certain stores that sell it; they have guys that walk around and sell it because they know police are here watching stores. So they got guys walking around, two to three streets away. Everyone knows who the guys are.”
Selling K2 is only considered a misdemeanor while selling an ounce of actual marijuana in New York is a felony. Most stores busted for selling K2 only received a $250 fine, which is likely nothing compared to the amount made in illegal K2 sales. The not so harsh punishments for shops selling K2 is likely the reason the illegal status is not deterring the sales of synthetic marijuana.
Why are people still using synthetic marijuana?
The popularity of K2 is due in part to the fact that it does not appear on drug tests. Naturally, people on parole or looking to get jobs that require drug testing might turn to synthetic marijuana for a buzz. The illegal status of marijuana makes it harder to obtain so people who can’t find a source for the organic stuff may turn to K2, found on the shelves of stores in many states, as an alternative to the less harmful cannabis plant.
It is apparent that the illegal status of marijuana is leading to thousands of people overdosing on K2 and being hospitalized each year in New York alone. K2 has harmful side effects such as extreme anxiety, confusion, paranoia, hallucinations, rapid heart rate, vomiting, seizures, fainting, kidney failure and reduced blood supply to the heart. Despite these side effects, K2 was allowed to be sold for years while marijuana remains federally illegal.
Punishments for using or selling K2 are much less harsh than those associated with utilization and distribution of marijuana. The popularity of K2 depends on the illegal status of marijuana and lifting the prohibition may encourage people to use marijuana instead of killing themselves with this harmful synthetic.