New York Law Officials Raid 90 Bodegas Selling Synthetic Marijuana

New York Law Officials Raid 90 Bodegas Selling Synthetic Marijuana

In New York City, federal and city authorities announced last Wednesday that they were cracking down on synthetic marijuana, also known as Spice or K2, after raiding some 90 bodegas that sold the powerful drug.

The raid resulted in charges against 10 defendants that were part of an international trafficking ring, and authorities said more arrests are forthcoming. [1]

The ring produced industrial quantities of K2 in the Bronx using controlled precursor chemicals illegally imported from China. The defendants mixed the chemicals with solvents and flavoring additives, an indictment unsealed in Federal District Court in Manhattan revealed.

Prosecutors say it is the start of a massive crackdown on K2 and those who sell it to vulnerable teens and homeless people.

“Today’s collective action is just the start of a response, one that will not end until this poison in a packet no longer endangers our community,” Preet Bharara, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, said at a news conference.

Mr. Bharara called K2 a “public health crisis that had reached epic proportions.” He blamed not only the traffickers, but the owners of New York corner stores whom he said had targeted teenagers and the poor with low-cost narcotics.

“We will, if appropriate, arrest store owners who openly peddle poison,” Mr. Bharara said. He offered a warning: “Don’t take any chances and do a public service: Stop selling Spice now.”

At least 6 of the bodegas raided were on 125th Street, where a chunk of the homeless population gathers to smoke K2, leaving many of them immobile.

Three of the men indicted in New York City were described as the principals in the trafficking ring’s manufacturing activities. Others coordinated the distribution and transportation of K2 to retail outlets, while the 10th defendant was a retail seller of the dangerous drugs. Each could face 20 years in prison if found guilty.

Melissa Mark-Viverito, the City Council speaker, says she would introduce a law to extend the ban on synthetic marijuana and other chemicals that produce a similar effect, even if those chemicals are not already banned by law.

Senator Charles Schumer is also calling on the federal government to curb the flow of K2, which can also be purchased online using a credit card.

“These drugs are more dangerous and can have worse side effects than marijuana,” Sen. Schumer said.

According to Sen. Schumer, bogus pot is readily available on Chinese websites.

He is urging the Drug Enforcement Agency to set up a separate unit to identify sites that sell K2 and then ban credit card companies from doing business with them. [2]

“By simply telling the credit card companies not to deal with these sites, we can shut them down.

When you buy a synthetic drug, you give a credit card number. You can go on your iPhone right now and pull up some of these websites. They say ‘We take Visa. Visa would no longer take them. None of the credit card companies would take them. We could strangle them,” Schumer said.

Sen. Schumer added, speaking at a news conference at his Manhattan office:

“These drugs are more dangerous and can have worse side effects than marijuana — and they’re becoming even more popular than marijuana because they are so available. An all-too-high percentage of these illegal drugs are available on the Internet. They’re available to bodegas that want to sell them directly to people. They’re available to street gangs, you can just go online and buy them. And they’re available to drug rings that buy the precursor chemicals and then make them into drugs and sell them on the streets.”

Sen. Schumer also wants the DEA to publish any new information on new brands of synthetic marijuana found online.

The New York City mayor’s office says there have been more than 3,000 synthetic marijuana-related emergency department visits so far this year. [3]

Additional Sources:

[1] The New York Times

[2] CBS New York

[3] AM New York

Photo credit: Jim Smith/WCBS 880