The 125th Street in East Harlem has become centerstage of an epidemic caused by the drug K2, also known as synthetic marijuana or Spice.
At local bodegas, a package of K2 can be purchased for a mere $5. Its availability, inexpensive price and potency have elevated its popularity in New York. Several drug users have resorted to K2 because it is known to be 100 times more potent than traditional marijuana. Manufactured in powdered form in China, subsequently shipped to the United States, liquefied and doused, they are believed to cause unexpected and, at times, lethal effects. Around 2,300 emergency room visits in the last two months have been attributed to the use of K2.
As reported by Business Insider, US Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman, Matthew Barden, said that chemists manufacturing the drug tweak the synthesizing formula to undermine U.S. drug laws – because of which enforcement of synthetic cannabinoids has been difficult. The drug was described by NYPD Commissioner, Bill Bratton, as “weaponised marijuana.” It is a violation of the sanitary code to smoke the drug in public. Those publicly smoking the drug are issued summons.
A recent raid carried out by the DEA and NYPD took down a massive K2 drug ring in New York. Many of the bodegas, delis, and warehouses that were raided were situated in 125th Street in East Harlem. “This is a scourge on our society, affecting the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods and our most challenged citizens. It affects teenagers in public housing, homeless in the city shelter system, and it’s quite literally flooding our streets,” Bratton said in a statement. “This is marketed as synthetic marijuana, some call it K2 … its real name is poison.”
According to Fox5 NY, to restrain the widespread use of K2, the New York City Council is planning to pass three bills. The legislation was passed on Wednesday. The first bill puts a ban on the sale of the drug and warrants criminal penalties on anyone violating the same. The second authorizes the suspension of cigarette dealer licenses of anyone found selling the drug. The third one gives the police the liberty to enforce public nuisance regulations to catch the people or groups involved in manufacturing and selling the drug.
William Wells said that he was introduced to K2 a year ago. “My brain is connected to the chemicals.” However, he warned people thinking against taking the drug. “It will have you running down the block. It will have you fighting yourself. It will have you getting very violent. It will have you living like a bum,” he said. “I wish I could stop, but I can’t stop. I can’t stop.”
An East Harlem resident reflected on the popularity of K2, saying it has become an undeniable part of the neighborhood. “K2 is being sold 24 hours a day around here,” the resident, who asked to be referred to as Miguel, said. “They come in these colourful packages with all these crazy names, and up until police started coming around, the shopkeepers were selling the drugs right in the window.”
Another resident said eliminating the drug completed will be an extremely difficult task. “K2 is always going to be big, man,” the resident said. “Anytime you got something like that, how can it not be big? Taking it away is gonna be a problem.”
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