Synthetic cannabis is one of the new phenomenons on the drug market as an alternative to straight up cannabis. The herbal mixtures are popular among teenagers, but reports out of various cities have cause health concerns, as people fall out from smoking it, and some even die. Authorities in New York City may have prevented the next tragedy, as police seized two million packets of K2 in the Bronx.
K2 (also called Spice) is synthetic cannabis. Synthetic marijuana has an herbal base, but is sprayed with synthetic cannabinoids (the compounds found in the cannabis plant) and sold as incense. Users smoke it usually as an alternative for cannabis, as it is easier to obtain and will not be detected on drug tests. Though it is advertised as a safe alternative to cannabis, K2 has proven to be dangerous, as it causes psychosis and other ailments. DrugAbuse.gov reports:
Spice abusers who have been taken to Poison Control Centers report symptoms that include rapid heart rate, vomiting, agitation, confusion, and hallucinations. Spice can also raise blood pressure and cause reduced blood supply to the heart (myocardial ischemia), and in a few cases it has been associated with heart attacks. Regular users may experience withdrawal and addiction symptoms.
We still do not know all the ways Spice may affect human health or how toxic it may be, but one public health concern is that there may be harmful heavy metal residues in Spice mixtures. Without further analyses, it is difficult to determine whether this concern is justified.
The Bronx bust comes as part of a major crackdown in NYC on synthetic cannabis. The most common users in New York City are teens living in public housing and homeless individuals living in shelters. Last week, the feds unsealed indictments against ten manufacturers and distributors in all five boroughs of the city. Wednesdays bust occurred in a warehouse on Poplar Street. The two million packets seized are said to be worth as much as $10 million on the street.
Though using or selling synthetic cannabis in New York City isn’t a punishable crime, and selling and manufacturing it is only a health code violation in the state, suspects will face federal charges. The defendants violated federal law by “importing illegal synthetic compounds containing controlled substances, mixing the chemicals and then selling the synthetic drugs to stores.”
A bill has been introduced to the New York City legislature to K2 slinging a crime punishable by up to a year in jail.