NYS stepping up efforts against K2 synthetic drugs

Jul 19, 2016

State Police arrested a man in Rochester Sunday evening, charged with the sale of 150 packets of K2. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state is getting tougher on the potent "synthetic marijuana," as it will most likely begin to spread across Western and Upstate New York.

The drug sold as K2, spike, spice or "synthetic marijuana" may look like dried marijuana leaves. But it's really any of a combination of chemicals created in a lab that are then sprayed on dried plant material.
Credit Spencer Platt / Getty Images

The sale of K2 and other synthetic drugs in most municipalities is a crime to begin with, but now Cuomo says the state is going after the convenience stores and bodegas where the majority of sales are made.

"The Department of Health has the authority to close down the store, we have empowered the state liquor authority to revoke a store's liquor license and the New York State gaming commission with the power to revoke the store's license to sell lottery tickets," he said.

The arrest was made at the Loomis and Joseph Mart on Joseph Avenue in Rochester. Cuomo called for a series of statewide enforcement actions, including increased police presence and additional sweeps in communities to combat future sales of K2. 

State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker says K2 is supposed to mimic the effects of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, but in K2 it could be as much as 100 times more potent.

"K2 is made of a dry plant material, sprayed with chemicals. These chemicals are often from China and change all the time," Zucker said.

These chemicals can cause problems with the heart and blood vessels, the nervous system and other organs. However, it is hard to guess what will happen after you smoke or ingest the drug, users and drug enforcement officials say, because the chemists who make it are constantly changing the main ingredients — tweaking a cannabinoid's chemical structure or mixing it with other substances entirely, which can change its effects.

In 2015, calls to poison control regarding the drug almost doubled across the nation, compared to 2014's total, and health professionals and lawmakers are struggling to keep up with the problem.