Synthetic marijuana, also known as Spice or K2, is festering in cities and states across the U.S. The scenes are out of a horror movie with scores of people staggering, falling, zoned out of their minds, and otherwise scaring passers-by. The New York Times reports that local Brooklyn residents call a group of synthetic marijuana users “zombies.” Authors at the Times write,
“What was once a few familiar faces has turned into a tribe of strangers, walking around, staggering and looking lost, in the throes, it is believed, of the ill effects of K2, a synthetic drug that officials in New York have been working hard to eradicate.”
Unlike cannabis that grows naturally and has many proven benefits, synthetic marijuana is made in a laboratory and is only for getting high. Manufacturers spray herbs with chemicals such as synthetic cannabinoids and synthetic phenethylamines. The chemical profile is unstable because manufacturers change up the chemicals as soon as the Law bans the current chemicals.
While people have used natural and manmade therapeutics for ages and most people agree that one’s body is one’s own, synthetic marijuana is a dangerous option. First Responders describe altered mental states as well as trouble breathing and moving.
In one particularly bad evening, scores of people were taken to the hospital, and the police were deployed for a street by street search for victims or survivors. Synthetic marijuana/K2/Spice has been on the streets for years, but lately it’s cheap and easy to come by, and much more popular. The city has responded with raids, arrests, and new legislation – with some, but limited success.
At the same time, in the City of New York and the State of New York, cannabis is still illegal and punished with jail. Spice joints go for one dollar while a cannabis joint, if you can find it on the black market, goes for five dollars. The availability and the price will drive sales at any class or income bracket, but a large proportion of K2 users in NYC are poor, minority, or homeless.
K2 Makes the Case for Cannabis Legalization
The existence of K2 makes the case for cannabis legalization, as cannabis is much more effective and reliable – and much less dangerous. Synthetic marijuana users include a man with Parkinson’s Disease who medicates with K2. He said that sometimes the drug makes his condition better and sometimes worse. That’s not exactly the effect you want from a therapeutic.
Another guy says he’s using it for the pain from a broken leg, and another says it keeps him calm and he and his girlfriend don’t fight as much. When people provide these reasons for their drug use, it sounds like some of the reasons people state for using cannabis.
Some New York City Council members are working on the issue. Council Speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito, representing East Harlem and the South Bronx, said, “My district has been one of the hardest hit.”
She and other council members told the Times, “The city’s laws and policing of marijuana have driven people to K2, believing it would have the same effects as marijuana.” Councilman Rafael Espinal, chairman of the Committee on Consumer Affairs, said that legalizing cannabis would dissolve the K2 market.
Zombie Nation and Frankenstein’s Monster
That’s the situation in New York City – bunch of Zombies. What’s going on in the rest of the country? The Huntington Post calls the situation a perversion and Frankenstein’s monster. The author states that K2 is the second most used drug in high schools, behind actual cannabis.
Cannabis businesses and activists are frustrated because of the close association; their legal, safe product is sharing a bedroom with a product that causes hallucinations, seizures, coma, death and for survivors – severe, acute psychological effects and almost certain long-term mental deficits.
K2 in Colorado
In Colorado, a state with legal medical and recreational cannabis, K2 is present and causing hospitalizations and death. Therefore, the argument that legal cannabis will dissolve or eradicate the K2 trade cannot be proven. Yet.
In the HuffPost, Denver DEA Special Agent, Barbra Roach, said there is currently no correlation between legal weed and a drop in K2 use. She said, “It’s kind of all over the map.” She believes K2 use is driven by users that are young (12-29 years of age) and male. She added, “It’s just the perception that kids think it’s okay.”
New York City sees it differently. For them, K2 users are homeless, poor, and minority. What about the other Coast, in another state where cannabis is legal for medical and recreational use – Washington State?
Washington State and Synthetic Marijuana
The Washington State Department of Health has issued guidance on synthetic marijuana, which states the rules and regulations and affirms the illegality of possessing K2. Guess Derrick Coleman, formerly of the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks, didn’t get the memo.
The Seattle Times reports that fullback Derrick Coleman is charged with two (2) felonies after a hit and run accident in October 2015. Mr. Coleman has reportedly admitted to smoking K2 about an hour before operating his vehicle. Witnesses say Mr. Coleman was acting “aggravated, delirious and incoherent.”
Mr. Coleman is deaf, has been described as genuine, and is considered a rising star in the National Football League. His choice to use a drug may have been driven by his disability, pain from football injuries, and the fact that you can hide K2 use from the NFL, unlike cannabis.
Synthetic marijuana is a festering wound across the United States. Teenagers and young adults are playing Russian roulette with their lives. Respected athletes are using it to mask detection and treat the pain in their lives.
Some officials say that legal cannabis will significantly lessen K2 proliferation. Other officials say it won’t. The only answer is to try legalizing cannabis and verify results with actual data. Our most vulnerable citizens are susceptible. These are people, not zombies or monsters.