As more and more people are hospitalized due to the use of synthetic marijuana, new measures are being introduced to curb the sale of the drug, Al Jazeera America reported Thursday. A bill was introduced into the New York City Council this week to set criminal penalties for selling the drug, which could include a fine up to $5,000 and a year in jail.
New York City — which already prohibits synthetic marijuana if it meets very specific standards — saw 2,300 hospitalizations due to the use of synthetic marijuana in July and August alone, while hospitalizations from the use across the country have increased 229 percent in the past year, according to federal authorities. The drug causes violent behavior in some users.
The New York City measure would outlaw store owners from selling anything they market as synthetic marijuana. Many people who use the drug, also known as K2, are homeless or mentally ill, and traces of the drug don’t show up on standard drug tests. A gram of synthetic marijuana typically costs about $5, compared to the $20 asking price for regular marijuana.
While measures are being made to get the drug off the market, some drug reformists say reducing the harm caused by the drug is a better way to deal with it than simply making it illegal. Alyssa Aguilera, political director at VOCAL, a New York based organization that opposes the criminalization of drugs, told Al Jazeera that history shows bans don’t work to stop people from using drugs.
— Shimon Prokupecz (@ShimonPro) September 24, 2015
Police seized about 2 million packets of the synthetic drug from a Bronx garage Wednesday evening, the Associated Press reported. The drugs, which had a combined street value of about $10 million, were packaged ready for sale.
Last week, federal authorities charged 10 people in New York who they said manufactured synthetic marijuana after a year-long investigation into an international drug ring. The raid was the first made by federal authorities to combat the synthetic marijuana epidemic, the Wall Street Journal reported.