Following a massive synthetic drug bust in New York City this past week, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer, today (Sept. 20), called on the federal Drug Enforcement Agency to launch a special investigative unit dedicated to cracking down on the sale of synthetic marijuana.
Specifically, Schumer is urging the DEA to create a special unit to police vendors currently using websites to sell illegal synthetic drugs online and to notify credit card companies and other payment processors such as PayPal and Venmo of bad actors.
Schumer explained that, while it is illegal to sell or distribute synthetic marijuana in New York City and New York State, young people as well as dealers and bodega owners easily purchase synthetic drugs, like “K2” and “Scooby Snax,” on the Internet with little to no consequence.
Those involved in this week’s synthetic drug bust illegally obtained the chemicals from China and Schumer said that it was likely via the internet. Schumer said that, with the startling rise in synthetic drug use and abuse, the federal government should make every effort to identify and keep a record of which websites are selling the illicit drugs and work with local law enforcement as well as credit card companies to halt sales.
Schumer went on to say that credit card companies should dedicate necessary resources to receiving and acting on this information as quickly as possible and block the sale of dangerous drugs before they get shipped.
He is also urging the DEA to increase transparency by publishing information on known and emerging synthetic drug brands that have been found to contain illegal substances on the internet.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of New York, in a recent two-month period, the use of synthetic marijuana resulted in 2,300 emergency room visits in New York State alone. Across the nation, synthetic marijuana-related phone calls made to poison centers in the first four months of this year increased by 229% compared to the same period last year, and synthetic drug-related emergency room visits in New York State have increased tenfold.
Schumer said that this dramatic increase, one that is taking place despite a federal crack-down, can also be attributed to synthetic drug retailers and makers who are now developing synthetic drugs with new chemical compounds that are not currently on the DEA’s controlled substance list.
“Despite efforts in New York to crack down on synthetic drugs, the recent drug bust along with the startling uptick in ER visits shows that these dangerous chemical compounds and these illegal synthetics are still making their way onto store shelves and into the hands of New Yorkers and that’s in part due to internet sales,” said Senator Schumer. “With countless websites popping up and selling illegal synthetic drugs like ‘K2,’ the DEA must set up a special unit dedicated to identifying and investigating dangerous websites that have tragically invigorated the synthetic drug epidemic. I am urging the DEA to take a swipe at synthetic drug sales online and provide credit card companies with the information they need to block transactions from taking place on these dangerous sites before these drugs make their way onto our streets.”
Synthetic drugs are often a toxic combination of chemicals made to mimic 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive ingredient of marijuana.
Schumer explained that these drugs are very powerful, react differently to each person, and often come with severe side effects that could lead to almost instant death.
These drugs are often made to seem inviting and harmless – sold under names like “K2,” “Scooby Snax,” “incense,” “spice,” etc. – but in actuality they are dangerous chemical concoctions, and this false advertising may entice users – especially young people.
According to the Congressional Research Service, the effects of synthetic drugs range from nausea to drug-induced psychosis, even death.
This makes the harmful nature of the drugs unpredictable and unsafe for human consumption.
While it is illegal to sell or distribute synthetic marijuana products in New York City and New York State, Schumer explained that teens and young people can easily purchase synthetic drugs out of state or on the Internet with little to no consequence.
According to the New York Times, China has been the primary source for new synthetic drugs.
This past week, an historic synthetic marijuana ring was exposed and ten people were listed in a federal indictment for allegedly manufacturing synthetic marijuana using chemical compounds from China and distributing them to bodegas across New York City.
Law enforcement officials seized $30 million worth of the product, including approximately 275,000 packets of the product. Approximately 90 bodegas across New York were raided for selling K2.
Schumer has long supported measures to crackdown on synthetic marijuana use across the country. Schumer explained that, between the years 2009 and 2012, synthetic drug abuse was on the rise.
In response, Schumer fought hard in Congress to pass the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act of 2012 that banned many forms of these chemicals and enhanced DEA authority to ban new ones that emerge. As part of the legislation, Congress used its legislative authority to place more than 20 chemical compounds that had been used in synthetic marijuana and other synthetic drugs into Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, the classification for the most dangerous drugs.
The legislation gave the DEA enhanced authority to temporarily place uncontrolled substances that pose an imminent hazard to public safety, like these synthetic chemicals, into Schedule I of the CSA.
Locally, State Senator Patty Ritchie and Assemblyman Will Barclay are supporting Teresa Woolson’s efforts to battle synthetics.
Her son, Victor O. Woolson, 19, drowned in Lake Ontario on Aug. 9, 2012, while swimming with a group of friends. His friends told her and the police that he’d purchased a synthetic drug, “Avalanche,” prior to going swimming.
“He used the (synthetic marijuana) to get high just before he drowned,” she said.
The Woolson family has created the non-profit The Victor Orlando Woolson Foundation, Inc., to help fight against the spread of synthetic drugs.
To report synthetic drug abuse, sale, manufacturing, distribution or possession, call 1-888-99-SALTS (1-888-997-2587).
To reach the Upstate New York Poison Center, call 1-800-222-1222.
For more information on Woolson’s foundation, visit www.vow-foundation.org