NEW YORK (WABC) -- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday signed into law three new bills aimed at curbing the use of K2 synthetic marijuana and increasing violations for those who seek to sell or manufacture the chemical mixture.
The three bills are part of a multi-agency enforcement, education and prevention strategy against K2, with the goal of reducing the presence and use of K2 by aggressively cracking down on suppliers while offering supportive services and treatment to users in need.
"We are getting K2 off our streets and out of the hands of New Yorkers, and this legislation will improve quality of life for all New Yorkers," de Blasio said. "K2 is a poison that threatens public safety and public health, and these new laws criminalize sellers and manufacturers, without punishing users who are held hostage by this toxic drug."
Sold in bodegas, synthetic cannabinoids are leaves sprayed with unpredictable and diverse chemical combinations that are either smoked or ingested. The drugs go by a variety of names, such as K2, Spice, Green Giant and Caution, and produce adverse consequences ranging from agitation to vomiting to tremor seizures to hallucinations to violent behavior.
The new laws provide the city with additional tools and penalties to reduce the sale and manufacture of K2.
One law criminalizes the manufacture, possession with intent to sell, and sale of synthetic cannabinoids and synthetic phenethylamines. Selling K2 will be a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and up to $5,000 in fines.
The second allows the city to apply public nuisance regulations to violations of the new criminal provision barring the sale of K2, which gives the city additional enforcement tools.
The third law allows the city to revoke, suspend or refuse to renew a cigarette dealer license due to the sale of synthetic drugs or imitation synthetic drugs.
Since January 2015, there have been more than 4,500 synthetic cannabinoid-related emergency department visits in New York City, with more than 1,200 emergency department visits occurring in July. Males account for approximately 90 percent of these emergency room visits. Patients have a median age of 37 and are disproportionately residents of shelters and individuals with a psychiatric illness. Nearly all - 99 percent - of patients are age 18 and older.
Led by the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice, the multi-agency effort includes representatives from the New York Police Department, the Department of Consumer Affairs, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Health and Hospitals Corporation, the Law Department, the Department of Homeless Services, the Sheriff, and the Attorney General's office.