Synthetic Drug Bust in New York Underscores Public Health Threat: Officials
Law enforcement officials have disrupted a massive drug distribution ring involving synthetic marijuana, Time reports. The scheme allegedly involved the unlawful importation of 100 kilograms of illegal synthetic compounds, sufficient to produce about 260,000 retail drug packets worth about $30 million.
Authorities searched five processing facilities and warehouses used to process, sort and distribute synthetic drugs, and raided more than 80 stores and bodegas around New York City. Six people were arrested in the raids. Four others listed in the indictment were not in custody as of Wednesday evening.
“Despite sometimes being called synthetic marijuana, this is not marijuana – it can have unpredictably severe and even lethal effects,” Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement. “What is more, use of these drugs aggravates all manner of other societal ills: it is entering prisons; preying on the homeless; burdening our hospitals and emergency rooms; fueling addiction; exacerbating mental health problems; and increasing risks to cops who must deal with people high on this poison. Synthetic cannabinoids are a deadly serious problem that demands an equally serious response.”
The synthetic drugs allegedly came from China in powdered form. They were shipped through commercial delivery channels to a processing facility in the Bronx. They were then combined with chemical solvents, sprayed onto tea leaves, packaged and sent to wholesale distributors.
There is a misconception that synthetic marijuana, also known as K2 or Spice, is safe, said DEA Special Agent in Charge James J. Hunt. “Synthetic cannabinoids are anything but safe. They are a toxic cocktail of lethal chemicals created in China and then disguised as plant material here in New York City,” he said. “Today’s arrests represent law enforcement’s efforts to combat this emerging public threat.”