This past Sunday, both the New York City Department of Health and the New York State Department of Health announced a ban on the sale synthetic marijuana.
Often known as “spice” or “K2,” synthetic marijuana is usually sold in stores, often as herbal treatments. Effective immediately, the ban prevents retailers from distributing synthetic marijuana. Those caught doing so may be fined or suffer other penalties. Georgia, Kansas, Alabama, Tennessee, Missouri, Louisiana, and Mississippi have already criminalized the drug and banned its sale.
The new measure was installed as a result of a recent rise in health issues related to the use of synthetic marijuana. New York City’s Poison Control Center has received an increasing number of calls over the past few years due to synthetic cannabis use. In 2010, four people called with health problems. By 2011, the number jumped to 71. In 2012, there have already been 44 calls.
Short term effects include dizziness, nausea, high blood pressure, and hallucinations. Long term use may lead to hypertension, seizures, loss of consciousness, psychosis, kidney failure, increased heart rates, and possibly death.
Although synthetic cannabis may mimic the effects of marijuana, the two differ mostly in content and health effects. The synthetic kind is a combination of herbal ingredients and a number of chemicals. Only recent research has shown the possible health consequences, although no human studies have been conducted. Because synthetic cannabis includes chemical products, long term use may aggravate pre-existing psychotic disorders and prompt future psychosis.
From John Jacob Astor’s opium smuggling business (Astor Place is named after him) to the 1980s crack epidemic, New York has a history of illicit drug use and sales. A February 2010 report released by the city’s Health Department reported that marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in New York City. 730,000 people (12% of New Yorkers), mostly between the ages of 18 and 25, use it annually. These are official stats, mind you, so that number is probably tiny.
Cocaine is the second most popular illicit drug in New York, followed by tranquilizers, stimulants, heroin, and sedatives. Excluding marijuana use, 9.1% of New Yorkers have used illicit drugs in comparison to the 8.5% national average.