Boycott Stores That Sell K2

On Tuesday, July 12th, some 33 people were hospitalized in Brooklyn from K2 (synthetic marijuana)  related incidents. Police were called after victims were seen lying on the sidewalk, widely shaking and leaning over fire hydrants.  
K2 is an extremely dangerous drug. The term K2 is used to refer to any number of chemicals designed to mimic the effects of marijuana. Because there is no precise formulation, its effects are highly unpredictable. The behavior resulting from K2 use can range from mild aggressiveness to extreme violence. The effects on the body can range from nausea to kidney failure and even death.
The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene ( DOHMH) documented more than 8,000 synthetic cannabinoid-related emergency room visits in New York City since January 2015. DOHMH also reported that there were 10 K2-involved fatalities in 2015, with 9 of these deaths involving other substances.
One explanation for K2’s popularity is that it doesn’t show up in drug testing and may seem ideal to professionals that undergo drug testing at work. It is also highly popular among the homeless population due to its low price.      
Mayor Bill de Blasio, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, and New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett worked together in October to pass new laws criminalizing K2. In New York City, it is now illegal to manufacture or sell synthetic marijuana. Violators could receive up to a year in jail, fines of more than $100,000, have their cigarette retail dealer license revoked. Continued violations may even result in the closure of the establishment altogether. As a result of these laws and through the work of multi-agency enforcement, there was a steep decrease in K2-related emergency room visits through June 2016. And yet, in July 2016, some 130 individuals visited the emergency room as a result of suspected K2 intake. Most of the July patients are residents of either Bushwick – Williamsburg and Bedford Stuyvesant – Crown Heights.  
It is obvious to me that a key element in averting a recurrence of last week’s incident in which 33 people were hospitalized is prevention education, i.e., informing the public about the unpredictability and dangers of K2. In addition, I believe that community leaders and impactors should be encouraging community members to report stores that sell K2. A call to 311 is all that is needed. It is essential  that we assist law enforcement and organize compliance checks to ensure that local establishments aren’t offering K2 for sale.
I won’t be shopping at any establishments that violate the law prohibiting the sale of K2 and neither should you. It is our collective responsibility – and is within our power – to see to it that our community members do not fall victim to this frightening epidemic.
Behrman is the director of a drug prevention program in Crown Heights
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