New York City

Cuomo seeks tougher synthetic pot regulations

Big spike in ER visits

July 17, 2015 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Photo by Lance Cpl. Damany S. Coleman, released by the U.S. Marine Corps via Wikipedia
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Governor Andrew Cuomo on Friday called for stronger Health Department regulations to combat the sale of synthetic cannabinoids – known by street names including Spice, K2, AK-47 and Keisha Kole — in New York state.

These man-made compounds have resulted in a dramatic spike in hospital visits and poison control center calls.

Nearly 2,000 people made ill by synthetic pot were rushed to New York state hospitals in the three month period between April 1 and June 30, according to DOH. This is ten times the reported health emergencies caused by the drugs during the same time period in 2014.

The New York City Department of Health identified in April “geographically-clustered” increases in the number of emergency department visits related to the products. The largest increases have been observed in East Harlem, with smaller bumps also noted in Upper Manhattan and Central Brooklyn.

According to the city, ER visits sharply increased beginning April 8, with more than 120 cases in one week — more than six times the previous average.

“This rash of medical emergencies is proof positive that these synthetic drugs are dangerous and a threat to public health,” Governor Cuomo said in a statement.

What is it?

 Synthetic cannabinoids generally consist of dried plant material coated with chemicals which producers say mimic the effects of THC, the active chemical compound in marijuana.

According to the state advisory, users have experienced symptoms that include renal failure, death, agitation, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, high blood pressure, tremor, seizures, hallucinations, paranoia, arrested heart rate, loss of consciousness and violent behavior.

Since 2012, New York has banned the possession of a number of chemicals used to make synthetic pot, but producers have simply developed new chemicals not specifically mentioned in the regulations. The new regulations will expand the existing list of banned substances.

A survey on Friday quickly found numerous online sellers of synthetic pot, marketed as incense or potpourri. One seller claimed their product contained no banned substances and therefore will remain legal.

Attempting to assuage their customers’ fears, this company said, “Many people wonder why [our brand of synthetic pot] is still being sold if there is a risk of chemical dangers involved. In short, the problem lies in imitation competitor brands rather than in the authentic [brand name] incense. Many of the generic companies are adding chemicals . . . that are both dangerous and deadly. When you buy from a reputable, verified company, you don’t have to worry about these issues.”

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