Synthetic Weed is a Plague on Brooklyn’s Homeless Population

Synthetic cannabis, via Wikipedia
Synthetic cannabis, via Wikipedia

Last week, the city seized 2,000 bags of synthetic weed, known as K2, from two Harlem bodegas. It’s only the latest in a string of recent incidents that reflect the fast citywide spread of a drug that’s far more dangerous than its natural counterpart. You can’t overdose on natural marijuana, but that’s not true of K2. Sold for as little as $2 a packet and sometimes called “Spice” or “Mr. Big Shot,” it’s usually laced with a potpourri of unknown chemicals that can cause anything from vomiting and cramps to seizures, catatonia, and hallucinations.

In a harrowing article for Vice, Allie Conti reports on how Brooklyn’s emergency rooms have been filling up with homeless K2 smokers, and how homeless shelter managers, hospital workers, and city officials are at a loss for how to curb the drug’s scourge. The situation is particularly dire in hospitals and shelters in East Flatbush, where the daily scene at Kings County Hospital ER is like something from a zombie movie. 

Policy makers and hospital workers are facing a steep learning curve when it comes to scheduling and regulating the drug, since the chemicals in K2 are constantly changing. As more synthetic cannabinoids are banned, manufacturers keep tweaking their recipes until they’re technically legal, but will still induce the same grim highs. Because of the legal gray area the substance often occupies, cops don’t make confiscating K2 a priority. And the policy on whether city hospital workers can confiscate K2 is vague, to say the least. The director of media relations for NYC’s Health and Hospitals Corporation didn’t know the policy on whether hospital workers were supposed to confiscate the substance or return it to the user. “If I picked up a drunk who had a bottle of shitty vodka, I’d pour it out,” a Brooklyn EMT told Vice. “But when a hospital worker finds a packet of K2 in someone’s pocket, they give it back to them with their wallet.” This pattern, of course, leads to repeat hospitalizations for K2 addicts, sometimes several in a single morning. Unless some drastic changes are made, it’s a grim cycle that doesn’t show any sign of letting up soon.

Read the full article at Vice here.

Follow Carey Dunne on Twitter @CareyDunne


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