Store owner agrees to largest-ever settlement for selling spice


DENVER – The owner of a Denver tobacco store has agreed to the largest-ever settlement for selling the illegal synthetic marijuana drug known as spice, reports CBS Denver.

Orlando Martinez has agreed to pay $160,000 in a civil case stemming from a 2013 sting in which Colorado state officials purchased spice products from his store, O’ Pipes and Tobacco. Martinez was arrested, and officials later seized 1,319 total packages of spice products, testing four of the items for banned cannabinoid compounds.

All four tested positive, according to the Colorado Attorney General’s Office.

State officials said some of the spice products contained a specific synthetic compound that caused more than 200 hospitalizations in Colorado in the fall of 2013.

Martinez declined to comment on the settlement to CBS Denver.

Store owner agrees to largest-ever settlement for selling spice

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Surge of teens smoking spice, county issues advisory


Surge of teens smoking spice, county issues advisory

Hidalgo County issued a public health advisory after a “dramatic surge” of teens and young adults needed medical attention because they smoked synthetic marijuana or “spice.”

In the past two weeks, 25 teens and young adults reported symptoms associated with synthetic marijuana use, according to Hidalgo County Health Director Eddie Olivarez.

Some landed themselves in the emergency room of Edinburg Children’s Hospital.

“Any given day, we have two to five cases of synthetic marijuana,” said Dr. Maria Camacho, a physician at the children’s hospital. “What happens are seizures. The patients get really aggressive, also get really depressive. That’s the most common symptoms.”

Synthetic marijuana users can experience an increased heart rate or psychotic episodes. Each batch of the synthetic drug is made with different, dangerous chemicals making treatment difficult, Camacho explained.

“We don’t have one specific chemical that we can say ‘Oh, that is the reason it is getting too toxic,” Camacho said. “We don’t have a specific medication to contrast the effect of the synthetic marijuana, and that can be really toxic to the rest of the organs.”

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School resource officers warned local high school students about the drug, but it’s not stopping everybody.

“I’ve seen some friends trip, and they trip like pretty bad,” said 18-year-old Alberto Rodriguez, a high school student from Mission. “Some people start freaking out. They see things that isn’t there for real.”

Rodriguez said other students at school have offered to sell him synthetic marijuana, which is oftentimes marketed as legal because the packages are marked with “Not for Human Consumption”.

Rodriguez said he refused that offer.

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It will take a community effort to encourage all kids to just say no to spice, Camacho said,

“The parents, the doctors, we have to be active against these drugs. We have to educate our families and our kids,” she said.

County health officials will announce their plan to address the problem at a news conference Wednesday.

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This New Anti-Drug Commercial Is Laughably ’90s


One evening in April, Ethan Darbee, a 24-year-old paramedic in Syracuse, responded to a call on the city’s south side: unknown man down. Rolling up to the scene, he saw a figure lying motionless on the sidewalk. Darbee raked his knuckles across the man’s sternum to assess his level of consciousness. His eyelids fluttered. Inside the ambulance, Darbee hooked him up to a heart monitor, and he jerked involuntarily. The odd reaction puzzled Darbee. Why would the guy recoil from an electrode sticker but not a sternal rub? The driver started for the hospital. Darbee sat in the captain’s chair in the back of the rig, typing on a laptop. Then he heard a sound no paramedic ever wants to hear: the click of a patient’s shoulder harness unlatching. Swiveling around, he found himself eyeball to eyeball with his patient, who was now crouched on all fours on top of the stretcher, growling.

A photo provided by Karen Stallings of her sons, Joey Stallings, left, and Jeffrey Stallings. Both were hospitalized this month after using a synthetic substance called spice that mimics marijuana but is far more potent.Potent ‘Spice’ Drug Fuels Rise in Visits to Emergency RoomAPRIL 24, 2015
So-called synthetic marijuana products are sold in smoke shops and online under names like K2.‘Synthetic Marijuana’ Chemicals BanNOV. 24, 2010
That same evening, Heather Drake, a 29-year-old paramedic, responded to a call at an apartment complex on the west side. When she arrived, four firefighters were grappling with a 120-pound woman who was flailing and flinging vomit at anyone who came near her. A bystander shouted that the woman was high on ‘‘spike’’ — the prevailing local term for synthetic marijuana, which is more commonly known around the country as spice. But Drake didn’t believe it. Spike didn’t turn people into violent lunatics. Phencyclidine (PCP) or synthetic cathinones (‘‘bath salts’’) could do that, maybe even a joint soaked in formaldehyde — but not spike. Drake sprayed a sedative up the woman’s nose and loaded her into the ambulance. A mayday call from another crew came over the radio. In the background static of the transmission, Drake could hear Ethan Darbee yelling.

Darbee’s patient had sprung off the stretcher and knocked him to the floor of the ambulance, punching him repeatedly in the face. Darbee grasped the side-door handle and tumbled into the street. Within moments, the police arrived and quickly subdued the man. Two days later, 19 more spike overdoses would swamp local emergency rooms, more in one day in Syracuse than the number of overdoses reported statewide in most states for all of April.

Kenneth, 45, is a barber and former spike addict who says he first used the drug in prison, where spike was not detected by mandatory drug tests. Credit Philip Montgomery for The New York Times
Syracuse, where I’ve lived almost my entire life, has struggled with synthetic drugs before. William Harper, a local businessman and two-time Republican candidate for City Council, moonlighted as the kingpin of bath salts in New York for two years before the Drug Enforcement Administration took him down in 2011. Was there a spike kingpin out there now, flooding the street with a bad batch? Perhaps, but similar outbreaks occurred in several states along the Gulf of Mexico in April, and the American Association of Poison Control Centers reports that between January and June, the nationwide number of synthetic marijuana ‘‘exposures’’ — that is, reported contact with the substance, which usually means an adverse reaction — had already surpassed totals for 2013 and 2014, and that 15 people died from such exposure. Maybe there was a larger cause.

Continue reading the main story
Every state has banned synthetic cannabinoids, the chemicals in spike that impart the high. Although the active ingredients primarily come from China, where commercial labs manufacture them to order like any other chemical, spike itself is produced domestically. Traffickers spray the chemicals on dried plant material and seal the results in foil pouches; these are then sold on the Internet or distributed to stores across the country, which sell them sometimes under the counter, as in Syracuse, or sometimes right by the cash register, depending on local laws. Unlike marijuana, cocaine and other naturally occurring drugs, synthetic cannabinoids can be tweaked on a molecular level to create novel, and arguably legal, drugs.

Since 2008, when authorities first noted the presence of synthetic cannabinoids in ‘‘legal marijuana’’ products, periodic surges in overdoses have often coincided with new releases, and emergency doctors have had to learn on the fly how to treat them. This latest surge is notable for the severity of symptoms: seizures, extreme swings in heart rate and blood pressure, kidney and respiratory failure, hallucinations. Many patients require such enormous doses of sedatives that they stop breathing and require intubation, and yet they still continue to struggle violently. Eric Kehoe, a shift commander at the Rural Metro ambulance company that employs Darbee and Drake, said bath-salts overdoses are easier to deal with. ‘‘You might find them running naked down the middle of the street,’’ he said, but ‘‘you could talk them down. These people here — there’s no point. You can’t even reason with them. They’re just mute. They have this look about them that’s just like a zombie.’’

Syracuse is one of the poorest cities in America — more than a third of the people here live below the poverty line. After I made a few visits to Upstate University Hospital’s emergency department, where most spike cases in the area end up, it became clear to me that the vast majority of serious users here don’t resemble the victims typically featured in reefer-madness-type stories about the dangers of ‘‘designer drugs.’’ They aren’t curious teenagers dabbling in what they thought was a legal high dispensed from a head shop. They’re broke, often homeless. Many have psychiatric problems. They’ve smoked spike for months, if not years. They buy it from rundown convenience stores and corner dealers in the city’s worst neighborhoods, fully aware that it’s an illegal drug with potentially severe side effects. Doctors could tell me what happened when people overdosed on spike, but they couldn’t tell me why anyone would smoke it in the first place, given the possible consequences.

‘‘It’s crazy,’’ was all that one overdose patient could tell me. ‘‘Syracuse is Spike Nation, man. I don’t know who called it that, but that’s what they’re saying.’’

The visible center of Syracuse’s spike epidemic is the Mission District, a three-block wedge bounded by treeless boulevards and a red railroad trestle with the pronouncement LIVES CHANGE HERE painted on it in huge white letters. Before urban renewal gutted the neighborhood in the 1960s, it was home to a typewriter factory and a rail yard surrounded by blue-collar homes and fringed by mansions that have long since been bulldozed or carved up into boardinghouses. The sprawling Rescue Mission campus, which includes a men’s shelter and a soup kitchen, lends the district its name. The shelter explicitly forbids spike, along with alcohol and other drugs. But at any time during the day, a knot of people can be found under the trestle, dealing and smoking spike, and sometimes passing out from it. One unseasonably hot May afternoon, while I was combing a creek bank for discarded spike packets, a man shouted at me from a bridge: ‘‘That’s a lot of spike down there!’’

He introduced himself as Kenneth, a 44-year-old barber and spike addict with fingertips stained highlighter-yellow by spike resin. He had thin, expressive lips, and when he spoke, his words flowed in multiple stanzas. We sat in the shade under the trestle to talk. Kenneth was in prison when he first smoked spike, which he praised as a ‘‘miracle drug’’ because it didn’t show up on a drug test. ‘‘An addict is always trying to get slick, always trying to get over, always trying to beat a urine, always trying to beat a parole officer, always trying to get high without getting in trouble,’’ he said. ‘‘So I’m loving this drug! I come home, and it’s all over the place.’’

That was a year ago, after Kenneth got out of prison. For a time, he said, he considered dealing spike but decided that smoking it was all the trouble he could afford. Now he hated the stuff. Nobody he knew would choose it over real weed — if real weed were legal. In this way, spike was less a drug of choice than one of necessity. Now he was hooked, he said, and trying to quit. ‘‘It’s an annoying drug,’’ he said, comparing it to crack. ‘‘It’s great in the first two minutes. But then you got to keep lighting up, and lighting up, and lighting up. It’s not like marijuana, smoking a blunt and you’re high for two or three hours.’’

I asked him if he was afraid of landing in the hospital with a tube in his throat, or even dying. The risk of death isn’t a deterrent to an addict, he said — it’s a selling point. Take Mr. Big Shot, for example, a brand of spike that had a reputation on the street for knocking people unconscious. That’s the one everybody wanted, including Kenneth: ‘‘One joint lasted me six hours! I would light it up, take about three lungs, and turn it off. It was that strong. Even the guy in the store where I bought it from said, ‘Listen, smoke this in your house, don’t go into the street with this.’ ’’ If there was a spike dealer in the city selling bad stuff, Kenneth wasn’t aware of it, or he wouldn’t say. In his opinion, people were losing control on spike because they were smoking way too much of it. It was that simple.

‘‘That’s what all these guys do all day long,’’ he said, pointing to a group of loud-talking men hanging out at the other end of the trestle. ‘‘That’s what they’re doing right now.’’ (Kenneth, now 45, recently told me he had kicked his spike habit.)
Other spike users I spoke to in the Mission District made the same argument. One of them was Tyson, a 27-year-old drifter with shaggy brown hair who affected an air of party-dude bonhomie. He’d shot up, smoked, swallowed or snorted just about every drug there is, he said. Last fall, he started using spike for the same reason Kenneth did — to foil mandatory drug tests. Now he was living on the street, waiting for a bed to open up in a rehab facility. I bought him an iced coffee and a wedge of poundcake at the Starbucks in Armory Square, an upscale neighborhood of shops and restaurants three blocks from the Mission District. We sat on a sun-dappled bench, watching lawyers and insurance executives come and go. When I asked him why so many people were overdosing on spike in Syracuse, Tyson blamed novice smokers.

‘‘The first week or so of smoking spike, there’s no control over it,’’ he said. ‘‘I’d smoke it and black out and come to three hours later, hugging a pole.’’

They can’t all be novices, I pointed out. Many of the spike users I talked to at Upstate University Hospital were plenty experienced, and they had ended up in the emergency room regardless. Tyson slurped a blob of whipped cream from his cup and reconsidered the question. His answer was rambling and profane, but it gave me deeper insight into how the spike economy works in Syracuse.

Spike, Tyson said, is a ‘‘poverty drug.’’ A five-gram bag goes for $10 in the store, but it is often subdivided and resold on the street as $1 ‘‘sticks,’’ or joints, and $2 ‘‘freestyle’’ portions — spike poured directly from the bag into the hand of the buyer. Many of the users I spoke to claimed that, in addition to being dirt-cheap, spike was addictive. There are no studies to back up this claim. Toxicologists know only that synthetic cannabinoids bind to certain receptors in the brain, and they understand nothing about the drug’s long-term health effects. Scientific proof aside, Tyson said he knew spike users who performed sex acts for a few dollars. ‘‘That’s how you know that spike is definitely addictive,’’ he said. ‘‘People are out tricking for it.’’

Tyson also explained how easy spike is to get in Syracuse. He ticked off the names of corner stores that sold it from behind the counter. Some required users to know code words — ‘‘Skittles,’’ for example — while others sold spike to anybody who asked for it, including children. Along with the stores, and the entrepreneurs peddling sticks to subsidize their own habits, street dealers offered bags of spike purchased in bulk from distributors in New York City.

‘‘That dude over there, with the headphones on?’’ Tyson said. ‘‘He does it.’’ He pointed his chin toward a young man in a leather coat crossing the street. ‘‘He’s got bags on him right now, but he does that pop-top.’’

‘‘Pop-top’’ is slang for the local spike sold in resealable pouches, the cheapest of the cheap. ‘‘You don’t know where it’s been, who did what with it,’’ Tyson said. No brand of spike is tested for its pharmacological effects, but pop-top spike doesn’t even have the benefit of a street rep. It’s the ditch weed of Spike Nation: rank, wet and worst of all, weak — unless you get a ‘‘hotspot,’’ an unpredictably powerful batch. ‘‘Seventeen joints, you might be fine. Eighteenth joint might put you down for six hours,’’ Tyson said. ‘‘That’s probably going to be what’s going to give somebody a heart attack.’’

Tyson said he’d seen a pop-top operation once, in a dingy basement on Syracuse’s north side. Potpourri was spread atop silk screens on Ping-Pong tables, then doused with unknown chemicals from a spray bottle. What pop-top manufacturers lacked in quality control, they made up for in marketing talent. Their spike was even cheaper than the store-bought variety, and new brands hit the street every month. They also produced clever knockoffs, stuffing their inferior spike into pouches identical to popular store brands. ‘‘That’s the name of the game right now, dude,’’ Tyson said. ‘‘Who can have the best-looking bag.’’

Since the attack on Ethan Darbee, the number of spike overdoses in Syracuse has fallen by half, just as mysteriously as it rose. Maybe spike smokers are being more careful, or doctors are reporting overdoses less frequently. Maybe a bad batch of spike finally ran its course. The answer doesn’t really matter. In a year, or a month, or perhaps tomorrow, the chemicals will be completely different, and we’ll be talking about another surge in emergencies.

The problem is resistant to criminal prosecution, or even basic police work. The Syracuse Police Department has a cellphone video of a spike overdose that they use for training purposes. It was taken in the first week of the outbreak, when the police were responding to as many as 20 overdoses a day. A lieutenant played the video for me one afternoon on a computer at the police station. It starts with a man writhing on the floor in a corridor of an apartment building. The man isn’t under arrest, but his hands are cuffed behind his back, for his own safety, until an ambulance can get there. The man screams the same unintelligible words over and over in a hysterical falsetto. He bangs the back of his head against the wall and hammers his bare heels against the floor. Ragged flaps of pink skin hang off his kneecaps. His bottom lip is literally chewed away. The video ends abruptly with the man in midscream. The lieutenant jerked his thumb toward the computer screen. ‘‘Now,’’ he said to me, ‘‘try to get his name and phone number.’’
A spike packet confiscated by the police in Syracuse. Pouches bought on the street may look identical to the kind sold under the counter in stores but contain spike of even more dubious quality. Credit Philip Montgomery for The New York Times Continue reading the main story
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When the bath-salts outbreak peaked in 2012, the city passed an ordinance equating possession of synthetic drugs with minor infractions like loitering. It also gives the police the authority to confiscate spike from users and, with probable cause, from stores as well. But the ordinance, which pushed spike sales onto the street, did little to prevent the surge of overdoses that hit the city in April. Bill Fitzpatrick, the Onondaga County district attorney, responded to the recent ‘‘crisis,’’ as he put it, by notifying store owners in May that he would charge them with reckless endangerment if they were caught selling spike, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison. That was the extent of his authority. ‘‘What I would ask from the federal government is some sort of sanction against China,’’ a frustrated Fitzpatrick told me. ‘‘Forget about the doctrines of Mao Zedong or Karl Marx — what better way to subvert American society than by shipping this garbage over here and making it attractive to our future generations?’’

In March, the D.E.A. did arrest one Chinese national, a suspected manufacturer who made the mistake of traveling to the United States on business. For the most part, though, federal prosecutors have focused on arresting United States distributors under the controlled-substance-analogue statute, which was designed specifically to target synthetics. According to the statute, prosecutors must prove that the cannabinoids are ‘‘substantially similar’’ to previously banned cannabinoids both chemically and pharmacologically, and that they’re meant for human consumption. That’s why every bag of spike carries the disclaimer ‘‘Not for Human Consumption’’ as a legal fig leaf.

Carla Freedman, assistant United States attorney for the Northern District of New York, has successfully prosecuted many synthetic-drug cases under the statute. She won convictions against not just Syracuse’s bath-salts kingpin but also the owner of a chain of upstate head shops and the members of a Syracuse family who cranked out 200 pounds of spike a month in a rented house with the aid of a cement mixer. ‘‘If you keep taking out smoke shop after smoke shop, you’re putting your finger in the dike,’’ Freedman said. ‘‘If you take out the manufacturer and shut his business down, you stop production for a while.’’

Her current case concerns three associates of a Los Angeles-based organization called Real Feel Products Inc., who are charged with conspiring ‘‘to distribute one or more controlled-substance analogues.’’ Real Feel has done its business in the open, and indeed claims on its website to rank as ‘‘the Top 5 counter culture distribution company in North America.’’ Since Freedman charged the defendants under the analogue statute, their most likely defense will be to argue that they have changed their products frequently enough to keep them within the realm of legality. It’s Freedman’s job to prove that they didn’t. If they had sold heroin instead of spike, they’d already be in jail, and none of this would be an issue. As if more evidence were necessary to prove that synthetic drugs are the new frontier, Real Feel was also at one point developing a reality television show about growing its business.

Neither Fitzpatrick nor Freedman nor Syracuse’s mayor, Stephanie Miner, had any idea who, or what, was causing the overdoses. In Miner’s view, spike was just the drug of the moment, as heroin was last year and bath salts the year before that. She said she believes the real problem is centered on ‘‘undiagnosed trauma’’ that drives people to use drugs — any drugs — in the first place.

‘‘You can’t arrest your way out of these problems,’’ Miner said. ‘‘If somebody thinks that you can use the law to correct behavior that results from mental health issues? Not gonna happen.’’

The next day I went for a ride along with Police Officer Jacob Breen. Just four years out of the academy, Breen still enjoyed patrolling a beat and showed a keen interest in the social fabric of the city’s tough south- and west-side neighborhoods. After decades of economic decline, Syracuse has become one of the most segregated cities in the country, with a predominantly black underclass trapped in the urban core and middle-class whites living in the suburbs. Onondaga County, where Syracuse is the largest city, also has the third-highest rate of ‘‘zombie homes’’ — abandoned by their owners but not yet reclaimed by the banks — in the state. Cruising from block to block, Breen glanced back and forth between the road and a laptop wedged between our seats that displayed mug shots of felons on open warrants, the majority of them young black men. We passed a dilapidated two-story house, its boarded-up windows tagged with graffiti. The front door was ajar. ‘‘Open for business,’’ Breen said, craning his head around to get a glimpse through the door.

What bothered Breen most about the spike problem was how little he could do about it. Dealers, he knew, didn’t care about being hit with an appearance ticket for violating the city ordinance. He had to spend much of his time running around the city to protect ambulance crews from being attacked by freaked-out spike heads — ‘‘a waste of police resources,’’ he said. Sure enough, around 5 p.m., dispatch put out a call regarding a spike overdose. Four officers were already on the scene when we arrived. They stood in the yard of a tidy white house, trying to coax a man down from a set of stairs. The man was in his 40s, with a shaved head and a scraggly beard. Oblivious to the officers, who seemed to know him, he stared at the sky, rolling his eyes.

‘‘Hey, Will, c’mon,’’ one officer said. ‘‘You want to crawl down?’’ Paramedics wheeled a gurney to the stairs, and the situation escalated quickly. When the police laid hands on him, Will began jerking spastically and didn’t stop, even after he was strapped to the gurney and loaded into the ambulance.
Nurses at the hospital discovered three bags of spike on Will. But there was also a sandwich bag filled with what appeared to be small stones. Breen took the spike and the ‘‘moon rocks,’’ as he called them, to the Public Safety Building downtown. While he went to fetch a drug-test field kit, the supervising officer, Sergeant Novitsky, examined the haul. The moon rocks baffled him. ‘‘I just don’t want to touch it,’’ he said.

Whatever it was, it certainly wasn’t spike. The kit returned negative results for amphetamines, cocaine, LSD, marijuana, MDMA, methadone, methamphetamine and PCP as well. Breen and Novitsky weren’t sure what to do next. Toss the rocks into an evidence locker? Send them to the crime lab? Neither possibility appealed to Breen. ‘‘The lab’s not testing anything we’re sending,’’ he complained. ‘‘They won’t unless it’s a criminal case.’’ Novitsky shrugged. Overdoses weren’t criminal cases. At my suggestion, Breen decided to take it to Ross Sullivan, an emergency-room doctor at Upstate who has been investigating the toxicology of synthetic drugs.

We parked outside the entrance of Upstate’s emergency department and waited in the dark for the handoff. This was how knowledge of synthetic drugs was being advanced — an ersatz drug deal between a rookie cop and a toxicologist, with a reporter acting as middleman. It was absurd, but it was also somehow fitting. The synthetic-drug industry, and the response to it, are based on improvisation. A molecule is tweaked in a Chinese lab, triggering a chain reaction that goes all the way down the line from dealers to users to paramedics and the police to doctors and lawyers. Just when everybody seems to have a handle on it, the molecule gets tweaked again, and the cycle begins anew. Whatever these rocks were, Upstate’s doctors might very well see a flood of overdoses on it next year.

City proposes new fines & jail time for spice users, dealers


City proposes new fines & jail time for spice users, dealers

Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz is proposing new criminal penalties for using and dealing the synthetic drug spice, which authorities say has become a burden on emergency services in the city.

The current penalty for possession of the drug is a citation for $500. Anchorage police have issued 30 such citations since August, according to the mayor’s office.

“The new ordinance and accompanying resolution will increase penalties for spice distribution to up to one year in jail and a $10,000 fine,” according to Monday announcement from the mayor.

According to EMS Battalion Chief Mike Crotty, about a half dozen spice-related incidents occurred in just a matter of minutes around 4 p.m. Monday. At times during the day, all of the Anchorage Fire Department’s resources citywide were being used to answer spice calls coming from Downtown, Crotty said.

The mayor’s proposal would include a penalty for spice usage which would include up to six months of jail time and a $2,000 fine.

The proposal is scheduled for the Assembly agenda on Oct. 27.

The Anchorage Fire Department has transported 468 patients who were suspected of consuming spice between July 18 and Oct. 4, according to the press release. “This number represents 11 percent of AFD’s total transports and an average of nearly six individuals every 24 hours,” officials wrote.

Examining new NYC bill that willl ban sales of K2


Mayor de Blasio is taking a major step towards keeping synthetic marijuana off the streets.

On Tuesday, he signed a bill that bans the sale of the dangerous drug also known as “K2” or “Spice.”

Over the summer alone, 2,000 people were admitted to the ER after using the drug, bringing the total close to 45,000 hospital cases for the year.

Will this new bill finally get K2 off the streets, or will it just cause a higher demand?

Councilwoman of the 16th District, Vanessa Gibson and CEO of Chemical Dependency Services Warren Zysman join us in the studio.

Spice Is Vice: Mayor Passes New Laws Aimed at Ending ‘Plague of K2′


Mayor Passes New Laws Aimed at Ending ‘Plague of K2′

The Mayor signed a series of laws today criminalizing K2, part of the City’s continuing effort to crack down on the use and sale of synthetic marijuana. The drug, which Mayor de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bratton both referred to as “poison,” is a liquid substance manufacturers spray on herbs. It has been marketed as incense, spice and, perhaps the most hilarious departure from its actual use, bath salts.

The new laws expand upon New York State’s existing ban on K2 (in place since 2012) by making it a crime to manufacture, possess with intent to sell, and sell K2 and all chemically-related imitation substances. The misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year in jail, fines, as well as civil action by the City. Until now, manufacturers have managed to stay one step ahead of law enforcement and legislation efforts to prohibit the drug by changing the compound just slightly.

The City Council unanimously passed the same bills at the end of September, but with the Mayor’s approval criminalization will become effective in 60 days. Last week, City Council Member Antonio Reynosoconvened a neighborhood task force for a press conference at the intersection of Myrtle and Broadway in Bushwick. The area was deemed a problem spot after local authorities received a number of K2-related complaints from neighbors and local businesses. Reynoso referred to the intersection as an “eyesore,” underscoring the completion of a week-long series of minor beautification efforts that are part of a holistic response to the “K2 epidemic.”

“This is solution-oriented work, this is about finding out what problems people have— so you’re on K2, we’re going to try to find out ways to take care of you, what solutions there are for recovery. If you’re homeless, we’re bringing DHS out, so DHS can deal with that issue. If you’re selling K2 illegally, yes, you’re going to get fined– that’s very important,” Reynoso told B+B after the public meeting.

The new laws are in keeping with Reynoso’s conviction that punishing people at the user level will only exacerbate the K2 problem and make things worse for people abusing the substance. (Many of those users, according to to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene are homeless or mentally ill; the drug has also been linked to a dramatic increase in emergency room visits since January). In fact, one of the three laws, Intro 917-A, specifically outlines that anyone who is not selling, making, or otherwise distributing or advertising the drug be shielded from prosecution.

“These laws do not punish the individual who is held in the grip of this toxic drug — we understand that some of the people who use this drug are the most vulnerable in our city,” de Blasio told the crowd at today’s press conference.

The Myrtle - Broadway area has also been hit hard by K2 (Photo: Nicole Disser)

Another law included in the package makes anti-K2 efforts applicable under the city’s Nuisance Abatement Laws, meaning the City will now have the power to sue businesses into oblivion if they’re found repeatedly selling or manufacturing the substance.

At today’s press conference, the Mayor invoked charged language reminiscent of rhetoric used by authorities during the crack epidemic. He referred to the “plague of K2″ as a “new menace” that has caused immense harm and listed off a variety of busts carried out by the NYPD in partnership with the DEA, part of a “vigorous set of actions” already taken by the City in an effort to get rid of the drug.

The Mayor said the laws signed today are the “next step” in eradicating the K2 epidemic which neighborhoods like the East Village and East Harlem have bore the brunt of. He also took the opportunity to flatter the NYPD by warning manufacturers and would-be dealers that they will “now come up against the greatest police force in the world that will be empowered […] to act more aggressively.”

Interestingly, 917-A also criminalizes the manufacture, sale, and possession with intent to sell of phenethylamines, a class of drugs that include substances known as “designer drugs” such as 2C-B and 2C-I, which are taken for their hallucinatory effects similar to psychedelics like LSD (well, “similar” as in how a raging fire and fireworks are related).

“This has taken a toll on too many New Yorkers and too many communities already. It’s something we haven’t seen the likes of in the past and it was crucial before this trend got any worse to act decisively,” de Blasio said at the press conference. “We’re getting K2 off our streets and out of the hands of New Yorkers before it causes more harm to our city.”

Mayor signs law that allows jail time for deli owners who sell K2


HARLEM, Manhattan — Surrounded by the Police Commissioner and New York City Council Speaker, Mayor Bill deBlasio signed three, new laws Tuesday designed to decimate the businesses of deli owners that sell synthetic pot, often referred to as K2 or Spice.

“We will go at their livelihood and we will shut them down,” the Mayor said, before signing the bills inside East Harlem’s 25th Precinct, which is close to the “epicenter” of the K2 crisis on Lexington Avenue, near 125th Street.

Under the new laws, it’s a crime—punishable by up to one year in jail—to manufacture or sell synthetic cannabinoids, which are often marketed in $5.00 colorful packages with names like “Scooby Snax,” “AK-47,” “Geeked Up,” or “Wet Lucy.”

The stuff is sold as potpourri—dried plant material–but it’s actually been sprayed with chemicals  from China to create a high. K2 abusers would smoke the concoction and many ended up getting sick from bad batches.

“We recovered over two million packets of this,” Police Commissioner William Bratton said at the press conference, referring to joint raids with federal agents over the summer.

“We’ve been very successful in stopping what could have been a tidal wave.”

After emergency room visits skyrocketed in April, May, June and July, New York City started a multi-pronged campaign to rid the streets of K2.

Inspectors from the Health Department and Department of Consumer Affairs joined local cops to raid delis suspected of selling the synthetic pot.

In September, DEA agents and NYPD cops raided warehouses in the Bronx where hundreds of bags of the dried plant material was waiting to be sprayed with the chemicals—and then packaged for sale in bodegas, smoke shops, and delis.

Under the new laws, 9,000 shop owners in the city who sell cigarettes could have their licenses revoked, if they get caught a 2nd time selling synthetic pot.

They could also face fines of up to $50,000.

The police and various city agencies conducted a fifth raid of stores last week and found hardly any K2 packs.

Bratton said this was a good sign that law enforcement is having an impact.

Hospital emergency room visits are said to be down 28 percent since the Bronx raids in September.

Public Service Announcements about the K2 scourge have started appearing on TV, featuring teenagers, in the last week.

But the local crisis has impacted many homeless people, along with the mentally ill and poor.

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito played a large role in spearheading the summer crackdown.

The epicenter for the crisis was in her district, on Lexington Avenue near 125th Street.NETHERLANDS_COFFEE_SHOPS_01e97

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TPD raids gas station, arrests three for distributing K2 police say caused 19 possible overdoses


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The raid of a Tulsa convenience store leads to three arrests for the distribution of K2 that police say caused multiple overdoses Tuesday.

The owner of Phillips 66 at 11th and Fulton, Abdurrahim Rahim, was arrested at the store Tuesday night.

Police say they’ve been able to link the K2 that’s caused 19 possible overdoses to his store.

Rahim is the third person taken into custody.

TPD also arrested Bamph Hunter, 29, who they say is the main suspect in this case. Thomas Collishaw, 21, was also arrested.

Investigators say they are working on another warrant for a fourth person involved with the drugs.

Tulsa Police say this K2 is known as Pink Bubble Gum.

And they say it was distributed for free to the nine who overdosed outside of Iron Gate, a downtown soup kitchen.

Investigators say the dealers gave it away to the homeless as a tactic to get them addicted.

“Not only is it illegal but it’s illegal for a reason. It does have damaging effects. They’re just not quiet sure, the medical field, from my understanding, they’re just not sure the total damage this can cause, (be)cause it’s so new,” said Tulsa Fire Department Captain Jerry Benefield.

According to WebMD.com, K2 is described as a “synthetic marijuana.” The description goes on to say that it contains man-made chemicals being sprayed on leaves that “can be smoked.”

TPD says this Pink Bubble Gum is the most potent K2 they have ever seen.

Accused Bath Salts Drug Dealer From Newport Coast Keeps Striking Out


Since his arrest a year ago, accused international drug dealer Sean Libbert of Newport Coast has gone on a stark losing streak against the U.S. Department of Justice.

Libbert lost, temporarily won and finally lost efforts to obtain pre-trial release on bail from U.S. marshal custody because he’s considered a flight risk and has ties to communist China.

He’s watched his co-defendant, Kyle Kledzik of Dana Point, cut a quick, guilty plea that, though sealed, likely strengthens the government’s case against an operation that allegedly sold synthetic marijuana, hallucinogenic party drug called bath salts as well as .

Accused Bath Salts Drug Dealer From Newport Coast Keeps Striking Out

And this month a federal judge rejected his efforts to dismiss 14 of the 16 charges on technicalities.

Craig Wilkie, Libbert’s defense lawyer, argued the indictment was “fatally defective” because it failed to allege whether the government intends to prove the synthetic drugs have a hallucinogenic effect on a user’s central nervous system or whether his client made sales pitches asserting the effect.

“As the court may recall from the earlier bail litigation, Mr. Libbert owned and operated a company (Research Chemical Supplier) that openly sold over the Internet substances which are alleged to be controlled substance analogues, and his company website conspicuously warned consumers that the substances were not for human consumption,” Wilkie told U.S. District Court Judge Cormac J. Carney. “Mr. Libbert’s criminal liability depends on whether the substances are ‘controlled substance analogues’ within the meaning of [federal law], which in turn depends on whether he represented or intended the substance to have a stimulant, depressant or hallucinogenic effect on the central nervous system [similar to a schedule I or II controlled substance].”

To Wilkie, the grand jury indictment is based on a “legally insufficient theory” that someone other than Mr. Libbert made the central nervous system impact claims to clients across the nation.

But while Carney did not agree charges should be dismissed, he thought Wilkie’s argument scored in part.

“Notwithstanding the sufficiency of the indictment, the court is sympathetic to Mr. Libbert’s concerns in preparing his defense without notice of whether the alleged controlled substances analogues are so defined because of their physiological effects or because Mr. Libbert represented or intended such effects, or both,” Carney declared before ordering DOJ officials “to clarify and identify with precision” its case.

Prosecutors say Libbert faces a potential life in prison punishment if convicted because of his prior criminal history. He sparked a manhunt by becoming a fugitive in a prior drug conviction, violated laws against felons possessing weapons, sold Ecstasy as well as committed burglary, theft, hit and run, and DUI, according to court records.

The case–involving Drug Enforcement Administration, IRS and Department of Homeland Security agents–is the first in Southern California alleging violations of the Controlled Substances Analogue Enforcement Act that makes it illegal to manufacture or possess chemicals intended for human consumption that have similar nervous system impacts to controlled substances like marijuana or Ecstasy.

Libbert’s indictment alleges the defendant lived a life of luxury hauling in about $12 million a year.

Four Chinese nationals were also arrested for their alleged roles in the narcotics operation.

Feds’ Sweeping Southern California Bath Salts Bust Snares Seven Orange Countians


Seven Orange Countians are among those caught up in a federal government crackdown on synthetic drugs known as “spice” and “bath salts,” officials recently revealed.

Accused Bath Salts Drug Dealer From Newport Coast Keeps Striking Out

The locals were among two of three organizations charged in Los Angeles federal court with allegedly making and distributing thousands of kilograms of synthetic cannabinoids, which are designed to mimic the effects of THC and are sold under brand names such as “Sexy Monkey,” “Crazy Monkey,” “Scooby Snax,” “Bizarro” and “Mad Hatter,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

“These are extremely dangerous drugs, despite being falsely marketed to youth as being a ‘safe’ alternative and having innocent names like spice and K2,” said Eileen M. Decker, the U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles. “The often unknown and constantly changing chemicals in these drugs can have unpredictable and devastating effects on users.”

Ahmad Abu Farie, 54, his 25-year-old son Mohammad Abu Farie, both of Huntington Beach, and a second son, Ehab Abu Farie, 24, of Chandler, Arizona, were among seven people charged with being part of a company in downtown LA’s Skid Row district that sold the compounds that are smoked or swallowed.

A separate Orange County business involved in the same, according to the feds, included Adnan Bahhur, 55, and his sons Islam Bahhur, 29, and Hakeem Bahhur, 24, all of Anaheim, Adnan Bahhur’s 44-year-old daughter Maesa Bahhur of Greenville, South Carolina, Anaheim’s Oun Alrzouq, 49, and Mohamad Hamade, 31, of Irvine.

A third case focuses on two former Monterey Park residents who allegedly had ties to the other two organizations. Most defendants are charged with conspiracy to manufacture, possess with intent to distribute, and distribute controlled substance analogues, a charge that carries a sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison, according to prosecutors.

Could be the makings of the longest family reunions EVER!