K2, Other Synthetic Marijuana Products Harming Low-Income Communities | Center on Addiction

K2, Other Synthetic Marijuana Products Harming Low-Income Communities

K2, Other Synthetic Marijuana Products Harming Low-Income Communities

July 12, 2016

By Nicole Piazza

Synthetic marijuana is not like traditional marijuana; in fact, it's not even made from a plant.

Synthetic marijuana — like K2 — is a hazardous mix of industrial chemicals combined to imitate the effects of THC, the naturally occurring active compound found in marijuana. These chemicals are sprayed on bits of dried plant material, packaged in colorful wrappers, nicknamed "poison packets," and sold under the guise of potpourri or herbal incense. Yet synthetic marijuana is far from being harmless potpourri.

The use of synthetic marijuana can have serious and even lethal side effects, including rapid heart rate, vomiting, agitation, and hallucinations.

K2 continues to harm low-income communities. With a joint of K2 costing as little as one dollar, many poor and homeless individuals, some of whom suffer from untreated psychiatric disorders, are becoming frequent users. K2 dealers target the most vulnerable people, selling near homeless shelters, drug treatment facilities, and mental health clinics — even smuggling the substance into jails and psychiatric centers.

Just today, 22 people in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn were taken to the hospital for overdosing on a particularly potent batch of synthetic marijuana.

States are now adopting laws to ban drugs like K2. With so many vulnerable people being harmed, it's more important than ever for state and local governments to take action and prohibit the sale and possession of synthetic marijuana. Yet rather than criminalize people using synthetic marijuana, effective intervention and treatment is needed. Only then can synthetic marijuana — and its dangers — be addressed.

Nicole Piazza is a Research Assistant at The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse

Appeared in The New York Daily News on July 12, 2016

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