D.C. cracks down on stores selling synthetic drugs

This Feb. 15, 2010, file photo, shows a package of K2 which contains herbs and spices sprayed with a synthetic compound chemically similar to THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, more than 1,500 people in several states became ill in April 2015 from smoking synthetic marijuana sold under several brand names, including K2, Spice, Crazy Clown and Scooby Snax. (AP Photo/Kelley McCall, File)

WASHINGTON — K2, Bizzaro, Scooby Snacks and Spice, easily purchased at some convenience stores and gas stations throughout the nation’s capital, are synthetic drugs responsible for a dangerous spike in overdoses.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Police Chief Cathy Lanier have announced a new crackdown on synthetics.

“Synthetic drugs are illegal, highly dangerous and are a clear and present danger to the public,” Bowser says. She’s asking the D.C. Council for emergency legislation empowering the police chief to shut down businesses that sell synthetics. 

Bowser says dozens of individuals have been hospitalized in the past month for overdoses on synthetics.

Synthetics contain a vast range of chemicals and formulations and they’ve changed over the years. Police say their use and danger has grown throughout the past four years.

“When synthetic marijuana first hit the market it was more likely to make you euphoric, now it’s more likely to make you psychotic,” says Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt of the D.C. Health Department.

Police say the threat from synthetics is growing every day and that along with other drug abuse require new public safety strategies.

“The drugs that gives us the biggest threat right now — PCP, synthetic drugs, the other MDMA’s and club drugs,” says Lanier. Police say many of these drugs are bought and sold within their own networks.

Lanier says the open air drug markets of the early 2000s are largely gone. People are buying drugs over the Internet and through various networks, requiring a new police response.

The mayor and police chief have launched a reorganization in the police drug fighting strategy.

“The city is going to target the suppliers, who feed dangerous narcotics into our communities and shift away from outdated tactics focused on low level users,” Bowser says.

Police are ending plainclothes, vice units that targeted street corner drug buys and replacing them with a centralized, highly trained Criminal Interdiction Unit that will be responsible for investigating and uncovering major drug providers.

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