Yesterday, a bad batch of synthetic marijuana—known as K2—sold near the border of Bed-Stuy and Bushwick sent 33 people to the hospital, according to Gothamist and several other outlets. The police responded to a call yesterday morning, in which it was reported that several people wandering the streets were demonstrating “altered mental status.” Witnesses on the scene, or anyone who has ever seen a person reacting to it, more simply say it turns users into zombies; yesterday, several victims were splayed on the sidewalk, and leaned against fire hydrants in order to stay upright. All of the victims had smoked the bad batch of K2 outside 362 Stockton Street.
Synthetic marijuana, often sold at bodegas, has been outlawed in New York City since 2012. According to a very thorough rundown of what the drug is and does by a reporter at DNAinfo, Synthetic marijuana can refer to any kind of synthetic cannabinoid—which, it is explained, is any chemical “designed to mimic the effect on the brain of THC, the active chemical in marijuana.” In addition to K2, it is often referred to as spice, or by various brand names including “Smacked,” “Geeked Up” and “AK-47,” and then sold in colorful packets, according to both the Department of Health and DNAinfo.
One of the major problems with K2, however, is that users can’t be sure which chemicals, exactly, are found in the packet they purchased, nor if there is more than one kind in it. There is, of course, no regulation placed on concocting illegal drugs. Inside those multi-colored packets, dried leaves are sprayed with whichever version of the chemical the manufacture has come up with.
According to the same article in DNAinfo, there have been more than 6,000 emergency-room visits due to K2 use across the city since the beginning of 2015. One month was particularly bad: in July of 2015, 1,200 of those visits were made.
Despite yesterday’s mass overdose, officials claim, in fact, K2 usage has gone down. The first law that outlawed the drug made it difficult for officials to do more fine bodegas $500, and sentence clerks up to 15 days in jail, according to DNAinfo. But a new law passed last year has made the sale of anything that can be referred to as “synthetic pot” illegal, instead of targeting the specific and variable chemicals found in its different versions. Now, stores can be completely shut down if they are caught selling any kind of synthetic marijuana, which is sold in $5 packets, more than three times in one year. Fines also rose to $5,000, and maximum prison sentences expanded to one year. In May, K2-related hospital visits were down 85 percent.
Nonetheless, the scene around Myrtle-Broadway yesterday was grim. One deli in particular, Big Boy at 928 Broadway, is supposed to be one source for the drug, and potentially responsible for yesterday’s bad batch, according Gothamist and DNAinfo. On June 30, a Big Boy employee was arrested for K2 sales, authorities told Gothamist.
Today, Borough President Eric Adams will be distributing flyers and speaking to the neighborhood about the dangers of the drug. Unlike standard marijuana, it can lead to a multitude of adverse effects, including hallucinations, violent behavior, vomiting, kidney failure, arrested heart rate, loss of consciousness, tremors, seizures, and, according to the Department of Health, even death.
Luckily, as for yesterday’s overdose, Gothamist reports, all 33 users are expected to live.