NYPD Seizes More Than 1,000 Packets Of Synthetic Marijuana After Hundreds Of Users Are Sickened

More than 240 users of K2 have gotten sick in New York City since May 19, police said.

The NYPD scored a major synthetic marijuana bust in Brooklyn Thursday after hundreds of New Yorkers were sickened by the drug in less than two weeks, police said.

Detectives seized more than 1,000 packets of synthetic marijuana in the early morning raid on a home in Brownsville, which also netted four arrests, an NYPD spokesman said at a press conference.

Officers also picked up three 9mm bullets, three baggies of cocaine, and 31 tablets of clonazepam, NYPD officials said. The four suspects — 40-year-old Carlos Alvarez, 40; Pablo Morales, 29; Jessica Rodriguez, 30; and Jamie Harrison, 19 — were charged with unlawful manufacture, distribution, or sale, along with drug possession and paraphernalia charges, police said.

Included in the haul were packets of the drug labelled “Cotton Balls,” the brand reputed to be behind a mass overdose that sickened dozens of users in one neighborhood of Brooklyn alone, according to the New York Post, which first reported the bust.

The mass overdose, centered around one intersection in Brooklyn, began on the evening of May 19, when multiple people believed to have smoked the drug became sick, with symptoms including vomiting, fainting, and seizures, according to FDNY and police officials.

Since May 19, there have been at least 240 suspected K2 overdoses in the city, officials said. None were fatal.

Synthetic marijuana, also known as K2 or spice, is used to describe a variety of synthetic cannabinoids — drugs made to activate the same part of the brain as THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana — which are sprayed on herbal material and packaged for sale, often disguised as incense. But what makes K2 riskier than actual marijuana is that users rarely know exactly what they’re ingesting, according to NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea.

“You’re literally playing Russian roulette,” he said at a press conference. “It’s one thing to take an illegal drug. What people are doing with some of these substances is they’re taking an illegal drug with no knowledge whatsoever.”

K2 was banned in New York in 2015, and a new law was introduced in 2016 aimed at making it easier to penalize the owners and employees of stores and that sell the drug on the sly.

[Photo: Noah Hurowitz]

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