HARLEM, Manhattan — Surrounded by the Police Commissioner and New York City Council Speaker, Mayor Bill deBlasio signed three, new laws Tuesday designed to decimate the businesses of deli owners that sell synthetic pot, often referred to as K2 or Spice.
“We will go at their livelihood and we will shut them down,” the Mayor said, before signing the bills inside East Harlem’s 25th Precinct, which is close to the “epicenter” of the K2 crisis on Lexington Avenue, near 125th Street.
Under the new laws, it’s a crime—punishable by up to one year in jail—to manufacture or sell synthetic cannabinoids, which are often marketed in $5.00 colorful packages with names like “Scooby Snax,” “AK-47,” “Geeked Up,” or “Wet Lucy.”
The stuff is sold as potpourri—dried plant material--but it’s actually been sprayed with chemicals from China to create a high. K2 abusers would smoke the concoction and many ended up getting sick from bad batches.
“We recovered over two million packets of this,” Police Commissioner William Bratton said at the press conference, referring to joint raids with federal agents over the summer.
“We’ve been very successful in stopping what could have been a tidal wave.”
After emergency room visits skyrocketed in April, May, June and July, New York City started a multi-pronged campaign to rid the streets of K2.
Inspectors from the Health Department and Department of Consumer Affairs joined local cops to raid delis suspected of selling the synthetic pot.
In September, DEA agents and NYPD cops raided warehouses in the Bronx where hundreds of bags of the dried plant material was waiting to be sprayed with the chemicals—and then packaged for sale in bodegas, smoke shops, and delis.
Under the new laws, 9,000 shop owners in the city who sell cigarettes could have their licenses revoked, if they get caught a 2nd time selling synthetic pot.
They could also face fines of up to $50,000.
The police and various city agencies conducted a fifth raid of stores last week and found hardly any K2 packs.
Bratton said this was a good sign that law enforcement is having an impact.
Hospital emergency room visits are said to be down 28 percent since the Bronx raids in September.
Public Service Announcements about the K2 scourge have started appearing on TV, featuring teenagers, in the last week.
But the local crisis has impacted many homeless people, along with the mentally ill and poor.
City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito played a large role in spearheading the summer crackdown.
The epicenter for the crisis was in her district, on Lexington Avenue near 125th Street.