With 25 people hospitalized Saturday night after using synthetic weed, New York police are on the hunt for the “runner” they believe is responsible for selling the dangerous and potentially deadly drug. For the residents of Brooklyn, where the overdoses occurred, synthetic cannabis has become a real menace. But even though selling the drug, often under the name “K2” or “Spice,” is illegal, police have had little success clamping down on its distribution.
Brooklyn Neighborhood Besieged By Synthetic Cannabis
Throughout the country, synthetic marijuana overdoses are a recurring problem. But tackling the issue poses a problem for law enforcement, despite the illegality of selling synthetic cannabis.
And the Brooklyn street corner where more than two dozen people overdosed on the drug Saturday seems to be a flashpoint for the synthetic marijuana problem.
On the corner of Broadway and Myrtle, neighborhood residents say synthetic marijuana overdoses happen almost daily. And at 7:30 pm on Saturday night, residents watched as a steady stream of ambulances arrived to treat people who had smoked the drug.
Over several hours, paramedics treated overdose victims on site before taking 25 of them to the hospital. Officials say all 25 patients will survive.
Saturday’s scene was a replay of a nearly identical incident at the exact same location in 2016 when 33 people were hospitalized due to synthetic cannabis use.
After that incident, residents recall police were a common fixture for a few weeks, and the problem appeared to die down. But as soon as police left the area, “K2” was back.
This time around, police presence wasn’t even enough to deter use, with people smoking synthetic cannabis in broad daylight.
Police and City Officials at a Loss for How To Deal With “K2”
Business owners face harsh penalties for selling synthetic cannabis. The laws currently in place say selling “K2” or “Spice” is illegal. Any business caught selling it faces losing its license to sell cigarettes.
But there are a few ways to get around the law. In some states, simply changing the list of ingredients on packages of “K2” could be enough to skirt the law banning sales of the drug.
Synthetic cannabis is often manufactured from a chemical cocktail that’s easy to modify with new ingredients. Just a couple of months ago, in Illinois, K2 users were ending up in the hospital bleeding from their eyes and noses. Subsequent tests showed they had consumed a batch of K2 that included a blood thinner.
In Brooklyn, business owners seem to get around the ban on sales by enlisting the help of “runners”. Runners don’t actually work in the stores but have loose links to the business. Hawking synthetic cannabis on the streets in high traffic areas, police are finding them very hard to track.
In Saturday’s incident, all 25 overdose victims had connections with a neighborhood deli. Police are now trying to figure out how all the pieces fit.
So far, police have made a few of arrests, but none have nabbed the person responsible for selling the drug. Police arrested one person for possession of synthetic cannabis. After executing a search warrant involving the K2 overdoses, police charged two other people with possessing untaxed cigarettes.
25 People Hospitalized Saturday Night After Using Synthetic Weed
Synthetic cannabis is extremely dangerous and can even be lethal. Hospitalizations due to adverse reactions to the drug’s unknown chemical makeup are increasingly common. Last year, the Bronx mad who plowed his car through a crowd of people in Times Square was high on K2.
Many feel the ongoing prohibition against natural plant cannabis, which does not produce deadly side-effects, is partly to blame for the rise of incidents involving K2. “I think we have to have a more reasonable conversation about drugs and regulating all of that,” one Brooklyn resident told ABC 7 NY. “It’s sad, it’s upsetting.”