NYC mayor Bil De Blasio signed a trio of bills Tuesday that outlaw the sale of synthetic weed, commonly known as K2. It’s basically a plant sprayed with chemicals, then packaged and sold in bodegas as “incense” or “potpourri” that’s “not for human consumption.” The exact mix of synthetic cannabinoids varies from brand to brand, and changes often to get around states’ controlled substance lists.
Previously, stores could be fined $250 for possession of K2 Now, selling the drug comes with heavy fines—up to $50,000—and jail time, and stores caught selling it could lose their licenses to sell tobacco.
De Blasio announced the new laws in East Harlem, which has been hit especially hard by K2. DNAinfo New York reported 120 people were sent to the hospital with in a single week earlier this year after they smoked a brand of synthetic marijuana called Mr. Big Shot, which has since been taken off the shelves.
“Since January 2015, there have been more than 4,500 synthetic cannabinoid-related emergency department visits in New York City, with more than 1,200 emergency department visits occurring in July ... Patients have a median age of 37 and are disproportionately residents of shelters and individuals with a psychiatric illness,” according to the city.
“It’s very cheap, you can buy a bag from anywhere between $2 and $5,” a spokesperson for City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who sponsored one of the new anti-K2 bills, told DNAInfo. “It doesn’t come up on drug tests. So if you are on parole, if you have an ACS case, this is the ideal drug because nobody is going to be able to test for it.”
In Anchorage, Alaska, where the drug is known as Spice, it’s become more prevalent than cocaine and heroin combined, cops say. A naked woman allegedly high on the drug ripped apart the inside of an Anchorage Subway restaurant last week.
Alaska authorities sent some Spice being sold in that state to a California lab, which found it was made with “a hodgepodge of different chemicals and drugs that include cocaine, methamphetamine and ecstasy,” the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services said.
De Blasio insisted the new laws weren’t meant to crack down on Spice users, who are “amongst the most vulnerable in our city, and often include those who are dealing with mental health issues already,” rather to curtail distribution of the drug.
The K2 ban will take effect in 60 days.