Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams urged the Justice Department to add synthetic marijuana—commonly known as K2 or spice—to the Controlled Substances Act earlier today at a press conference in front of Borough Hall. Adams also called on Brooklyn residents to support State Senator Jeff Klein's legislation that would make selling 25 grams or more of the drug a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. Currently, businesses or street dealers caught selling K2 face a fine of $250 per packet.
"$250 a packet is something that criminals can take the risk to do," said Adams, decrying delis that stock K2 behind their store counters.
Adams also introduced Della Ellis, a former K2 addict who says she started smoking after moving into the Brooklyn homeless shelter system. Ellis bought the drug for $5-7 at delis in Central Brooklyn—one of the areas hit hardest by the drug, along with East Harlem—and from dealers who sold joints of it on the street.
According to Ellis, the packages come with so much K2 in them that an enterprising dealer can get many users high with just a single packet. She recalled "smoke parties," where a dealer would sell to a large group of people who would then smoke it outside a bodega or subway station. Ellis kept using K2 more and more until she quit cold turkey after experiencing heart problems.
"My heart almost stopped one time, and I got tingly feelings in my veins, and I felt like I was going to pass away," she said.
As for quitting the cycle of K2 use, Ellis said "it wasn't difficult at all," crediting her own drive and the help of the Institute for Community Living.
Ellis claimed to have known three people who died as a result of using K2. Health Department assistant commissioner for alcohol and drug abuse Hillary Clemens, however, asserted that there have been no confirmed deaths in New York City due to K2, though over 120 people were sent to the emergency room in the city during one week this April after using the drug.
The City Council is planning to introduce legislation in September that would strip tobacco licenses or could temporarily shut down stores that sell K2, in addition to criminal penalties that would include a $5,000 first-time fine ($25,000 for further violations) or up to a year in prison. Legislation is also being proposed at the state level.
One bodega on Second Avenue in the East Village was shut down last week for selling synthetic marijuana, among other things, according to EV Grieve.