THE BRONX — When state senator, Jeff Klein, learned 100 people a month were going to psychiatric and medical emergency rooms in the Bronx—with bad reactions to the synthetic drug known as “Spice” or K2—he knew he needed to act.
So he sent one of his office workers with an undercover camera into the EzPass Deli on East 187th Street, hoping to illustrate how easy it is to buy the phony marijuana that causes psychotic episodes in some users.
The officer worker didn’t have a hard time buying the stuff.
Klein’s aide offered the clerk $25 for five bags of K2 or something like it, which is marketed “over the counter” as potpourri or incense.
The cashier reached down under the counter, and offered up several packages of “Smacked”.
When Klein’s employee asked if there were other brands, the clerk responded, “I thought you wanted “Smacked.”
Turns out the deli clerk had other brands of potpourri to offer, with names like Wet Lucy, Geeked Up, and Black Giant.
PIX11 had seen similar brands in Harlem last month—and in Queens, this week.
Users told us they were going into delis and bodegas to purchase the product—and then smoked it outside on the street.
On Wednesday, State Senator Klein held a press conference to say enough is enough.
“We need to criminalize it,” Klein said, as he introduced a bill he will present to fellow lawmakers in Albany.
“A law would actually bring one year to five and a half years in jail” for the sale of synthetic cannabinoids, Klein stated.
There’s a lot of confusion about what synthetic marijuana really is.
“It is not actually marijuana,” Dr. Maryann Popeil of the North Bronx Health Care Network pointed out. “It’s the cannabinoid substance that is found in natural marijuana that is sprayed onto dried, organic plant substance that may have insecticides sprayed on it,” Dr. Popeil noted.
The mix of chemicals, often created in China and then mailed to the United States, keeps changing.
So does the reaction of smokers.
Some get violent. Others drop to the floor suffering seizures.
Klein said he wants delis selling synthetic pot to start suffering heavy, financial consequences.
He’s asking that fines be increased to $2,000 for a first offense and $5,000 for a second offense. If sellers are caught a third time, it’s three strikes and you’re out.
“You lose your license to sell beer, you lose your license to sell cigarettes, you lose your license to sell lottery,” Klein suggested.
Right now, an Executive Order from New York State only allows a penalty of $500 for an offender. For people making millions on the illegal potpourri and incense, a $500 fine is really just the price of doing business.
State Senator Klein hopes to lead the charge for change. And his office issued a list of 24 delis in the Bronx it believes are selling the stuff.