Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray has called upon the New York State Legislature to join her in declaring war on “synthetic marijuana,” also known as K-2. In specific, Murray is working with Senator Michael Venditto and Assemblyman Ed Ra on legislation that would outlaw the drug, making the sale of K-2 a crime that would carry the same penalties as marijuana sales. What’s more, Murray is calling for K-2 testing of those who have been convicted of drug-related felonies just as they are subject to testing for other drugs.
At a recent press conference on K-2, Murray was joined by the two legislators, Nassau County Police Benevolent Association President Jim Carver and Warren Zysman, CEO and Chief Program Director of ACI Chemical Dependency Treatment Center.
“The synthetic drug K-2 is an enormously dangerous drug that has evidenced an alarming increase in usage in our area,” stated Murray. “Statewide there have been more than 1,900 emergency room visits from April through June.”
The rise in the usage of K-2 has been attributed to the fact that it is very inexpensive. Indeed, a 5-ounce bag (produces 15 joints) costs $3 to $5 as opposed to the $200 to $400 per ounce cost for marijuana. What’s more, the various forms of “synthetic marijuana” skirt the law, often being marketed as potpourri or incense. In fact, selling or manufacturing K-2 is not a criminal offense; rather it is only a state health code violation. Finally, some K-2 users indicate that they have turned to the drug based on a belief that the “synthetic marijuana” will not result in a “positive” result on drug screenings.
“Kate Murray, Ed Ra and I have discussed the devastating potential of K-2 and other synthetic cannabinoids,” stated Venditto. Given the apparent dramatic increase in the use of this drug, it is important that we take steps to protect neighbors with strong legislation.”
The officials also noted that the term “synthetic marijuana” is a misnomer, pointing out that K-2 can be far more dangerous and the effects can be dramatically different than those associated with marijuana usage. In fact, violent and psychotic episodes have been identified with the drug, and a lab in Indianapolis, Indiana, reported four deaths associated with a synthetic cannabinoid in January, 2014.
“These ‘synthetic marijuana’ drugs are very dangerous, and I am eager to work with Supervisor Murray and Senator Venditto to take meaningful steps to protect our families,” said Ra. “The reports on K-2 are very disturbing, and this issue has to be dealt with seriously.”
Although not reported as an official cause for medical emergency response, many individuals have speculated that concert goers who were transported to area hospitals from a Jones Beach concert in June may have smoked “synthetic marijuana.” While hospitalizations for marijuana use are uncommon, those for “synthetic marijuana” episodes have soared. New York City health officials issued warnings in April after “synthetic marijuana” sent 160 people to hospitals in just over a week. NUMC sees an average of 2-3 cases daily as a result of K-2 use, with more on weekends.
Murray is also pushing for drug testing for synthetic cannabinoids for those who have been convicted of drug-related felonies. The Supervisor noted that people who have violent drug histories should not be afforded a mechanism to evade current drug screening protocols.
“While drug screenings may not be foolproof and can be expensive when it comes to K-2, we need to do more to protect people from the scourge of ‘synthetic marijuana,’” stated Murray. “Those with felony drug convictions can pose a danger to the public, and the violent episodes associated with K-2 call for strong action.”
“The law enforcement community needs strong partners in government and tough laws to attack the drug problem,” said Carver. “I want to thank Kate Murray, Senator Venditto and Assemblyman Ra for addressing this serious issue.”
“Treatment for those who are victims of drug addiction is a critical part of the drug abuse and its effects on our communities,” said Zysman. “Keeping drugs like K-2 off the streets is another important piece of the puzzle when it comes to the war on drugs.”
“I want to thank all of the partners who are working to end the disturbing cycle of drug abuse and its many negative effects on our families and communities,” concluded Murray. “Taking on the fight against K-2 now is critical to stopping the same type of tragic consequences that we have seen with skyrocketing heroin addiction and overdose deaths.”