Law Proposed That Would Ban Synthetic Marijuana and Other Drugs

July 18, 2016 | Updated: 11:40 a.m., July 18, 2016

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 05: A man prepares to smoke K2 or "Spice", a synthetic marijuana drug, along a street in East Harlem on August 5, 2015 in New York City. New York, along with other cities, is experiencing a deadly epidemic of synthetic marijuana usage including varieties known as K2 or "Spice" which can cause extreme reactions in some users. According to New York's health department, more than 120 people visited an emergency room in the city in just one week in April. While the state banned the ingredients used to make K2 in 2012, distributors have switched to other ingredients and names in an attempt to circumvent the law. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

NEW YORK, NY – AUGUST 05: A man prepares to smoke K2 or “Spice”, a synthetic marijuana drug, along a street in East Harlem on August 5, 2015 in New York City. New York, along with other cities, is experiencing a deadly epidemic of synthetic marijuana usage including varieties known as K2 or “Spice” which can cause extreme reactions in some users. According to New York’s health department, more than 120 people visited an emergency room in the city in just one week in April. While the state banned the ingredients used to make K2 in 2012, distributors have switched to other ingredients and names in an attempt to circumvent the law. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Nearly two dozen substances in synthetic drugs such as “K2” and “spice” would be illegal under proposed legislation announced Sunday by New York Sen. Chuck Schumer.

There were 130 suspected overdoses on synthetic drugs in New York last week, in what Schumer described as “a scene from ‘The Walking Dead.’ But it was no TV set, it was real life.”

Despite fewer K2-related emergency room visits expected in New York in July compared to a year ago, Schumer noted there were more than 6,000 people hospitalized in 2015.

“We need a federal hammer to nail these toxic concoctions of synthetic drugs before things get worse,” said Schumer, a Democrat. Banning these drugs quickly will help federal agents stem the tide of synthetic drug use in New York and across the country, he said.

According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, synthetic cannabinoid can be 100 times more potent than THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Schumer’s legislation would also include variants of the opioid fentanyl.

Many chemicals used in synthetic marijuana — which killed three people between 2010 and 2015 — are still legal. Producers of “fake weed” continually change the chemical compound, thereby exploiting a legal loophole and drug test detection.

Advertisement

Schumer’s legislation intends to add more chemicals to the list of Schedule I controlled substances, which means the drugs have no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Fifteen synthetic cannabinoids are currently classified as Schedule 1.

The bipartisan bill is co-sponsored by Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, so Schumer said he believes it has a chance to pass swiftly.

During a press conference in Manhattan, Schumer presented a small container labeled “potpourri,” one name under which the synthetic drugs are sold.

Advertisement

“Unfortunately, it’s legal and does a lot of damage. It shouldn’t be sold to the people of New York,” Schumer said.

A ban on 22 drugs he said are sold most frequently is a first step in an ongoing battle with the drugs. The next is legislation that will provide the Drug Enforcement Administration with broader authority to ban even unlisted chemicals, Schumer said, “but that will take a while. This [legislation] will ban the most dangerous ones right away.”