Standing in front of a bodega shuttered by the NYPD’s efforts to crack down on synthetic marijuana distributors, City Council member Robert Cornegy spoke about the epidemic plaguing his Brooklyn community. In Bushwick, the corner of Broadway and Myrtle Avenue is well-known by residents as a hot spot for K2. And after five people overdosed on the drug early on Saturday, community leaders, elected officials and the NYPD came together to demand a change in course and a change in the narrative around K2 abuse in Brooklyn.
Community Leaders Decry Conditions at the Root of K2 Abuse
Along with elected officials, community leaders and the NYPD, city council member Robert Cornegy made a neighborhood call to action during a press conference today to draw attention to the ongoing synthetic marijuana problem in Brooklyn.
In the latest incident at an intersection known for K2, police responded to calls about five men who had overdosed on the synthetic drug. All five men were in stable condition when paramedics transported them to Woodhull Hospital.
During the call to action, Cornegy denounced five as still a “horrible number”. But he noted that five was less than the 25 people who overdosed on K2 in a single day back in May, and less than the 33 hospitalized in 2016 for K2 abuse.
But Cornegy knows the latest overdose outbreak is a sign the community hasn’t completely shaken its K2 problem. That, Cornegy said, would require broader investments in education, housing and treatment for substance abuse. “Until we have an education system that allows people to achieve the highest in education and where they can feel comfortable in affordable housing, you are going to have this kind of behavior,” Cornegy said.
K2 Epidemic Brings Community Leaders and NYPD Together
At the last-minute Monday press conference, Cornegy praised the NYPD’s cooperation with Brooklyn community leaders and local elected officials. In fact, Cornegy described the cooperation as “the first time” all three groups had come together to address a problem.
And at the behest of those leaders, police are prioritizing cracking down on distributors, rather than victimizing and criminalizing people who use K2. The results are encouraging. Several bodegas found to be hubs of K2 distribution have been shut down. As a result, dealers are back to one-on-one, hand-to-hand transactions, slowing the spread of the dangerous drug.
For neighborhood residents, that’s a step in the right direction. Many have grown tired of seeing “zombies”—people high on K2—ambling through their neighborhood. K2 is extremely dangerous, and overdoses are increasing in New York City, the CDC reports.
But calling K2 synthetic marijuana can be misleading. K2 has little to do with cannabis, although sometimes the effects can be somewhat similar. More often, however, the effects are debilitating and harmful. K2 is an ad hoc mixture of chemicals sprayed on plant material and smoked. Even saying that victims of K2 “overdose” on the drug is a misnomer. There’s no normal dose of K2 to begin with, and the effects can be wildly unpredictable.